Civil rights film festival celebrates transmasculine activist

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Bruce LaBruce, one of the few filmmakers to have been able to build a career oscillating between making pornographic films and independent cinema, always wishes to shock his audiences.

Once known for incorporating explicit gay and fetish sex scenes into his films, he has produced over the past three decades a body of work that deliberately pushes the boundaries of our taboos and eliminates our strongest assumptions about sex and sexuality. His films subvert familiar Hollywood tropes in narratives that blend a campy, melodramatic style with depictions of hardcore, often unconventional sex, and although he has taken a slightly more submissive approach in some of his more recent work. – including his latest, “Saint-Narcisse,” which came out earlier this month and features a complicated story about twin brothers born apart at birth who fall in love with each other when they reunite in adulthood – that doesn’t mean his films are less transgressive.

When the famous Canadian iconoclast sat down to speak with The Blade last week, we spoke with him about the challenge of staying on that edge.

BLADE: In your previous films, audiences were shocked at the sexual representations you included. Does it surprise you that today the same things can be seen on Netflix or HBO?

BRUCE LABRUCE: It’s true that when you see erect penises on “Euphoria”, or whatever, it takes TV to a level that maybe no one could have predicted – or maybe it was inevitable, really. But even though there is a certain amount of extreme, explicit content allowed, when you switch to a larger context, it still doesn’t count as OK. Society has this weird schizophrenia where this kind of explicit, even the idea of ​​porn, is accepted, to some extent – but in the movies, at least in mainstream movie films, there’s almost a desexualization. Granted, all of these superheroes are shockingly asexual. I think part of that is because the audience for a lot of this stuff is kids – and the culture in general is a bit childish around this time.

BLADE: How has this changed your approach to cinema?

LABRUCE: On the one hand, I deliberately make films that are more general public, like “Saint-Narcisse”, which are a bit like wolves disguised as sheep. On the surface, they refer to popular genres, like mystery and romantic comedy, and they pay homage to ’70s cinema – and there is a certain, maybe not “lightness” but an element of camp in it. style too.

And the explicit isn’t as important as the implications of what the movie is about. As in “Saint-Narcisse”, the intrigue of this attraction between twin brothers opens with Freud’s idea of ​​”family romance”, and how these sexual tensions of which he speaks within the nuclear family lead people to so much guilt and self-loathing. , because they think there is something morally wrong with them for having these sexual urges, which are really just natural. Obviously there are taboos in place, as there should be, but whether there is to be so much guilt and self-torture about these kinds of impulses is another question.

Bruce LaBruce’s latest film, “Saint Narcissus,” features twin brothers who are separated at birth and fall in love with each other when they reunite as adults. (Photo courtesy of Film Movement)

BLADE: Your films have always been centered on these taboo expressions of sexuality.

LABRUCE: The idea of ​​trying to humanize taboo sexuality and fetishes runs through all my work. You are not sick or morally corrupt because you have a fetish, you are just a living human breathing and having this extreme impulse. It is in fact quite often true worship, a kind of devout respect and appreciation, even a spiritual appreciation of the object of desire.

And there are so many ideological gay-themed films that insist on only presenting “positive” portrayals of homosexuality. I’ve always been against that, against any form of prior censorship or pressure to conform to representational ideals – I mean, who determines what a “good” gay is?

I’d rather do something that isn’t even really classified as a “gay” movie, rather a movie that talks about the ambivalence of sex and the ambiguities of sexual portrayal. I’ve always portrayed characters that don’t have a fixed gender identity, they’re a bit fluid, and it’s more about human sexuality in general, rather than being a “gay” movie – or a movie. which features gay characters who are reassuring and fixed in their gay identity. You know, assimilated, or at least wise and domesticated.

BLADE: Your films certainly challenge these kinds of politically correct notions of queer behavior.

LABRUCE: There is no longer the fear of portraying things because of political correctness, of being called out or “canceled” or whatever, which I really think is the enemy of art and cinema. The artist must be able to express himself without questioning everything he does and without censoring himself. It has always been that if you disagree with someone or think their movie is offensive then you have many ways of expressing that to them – you can get out of their movie, you can confront them. during a Q&A you can have a dialogue on the internet – but more and more it has become a black and white conversation where you are either on the right side or on the wrong side. It’s extremely difficult for a filmmaker these days.

BLADE: Your work has always sparked controversy, however. And yet you have managed to overcome it all and become a respected film artist. How did you do it?

LABRUCE: There is a kind of irony in my films – I see it more as an ambiguity, really, or a country sensibility that I have – which allows a lot of interpretation, and we do not always know where a film is. nor what the intention is behind. It’s ambiguous – even to me, you know? I think it’s a much more productive way of approaching cinema, because then it’s a dialogue with the audience – you don’t tell them ‘this is how it should be’ because of the pressures. social. It is something that is open to interpretation.

BLADE: There is also a kind of absurdity in your movies, where things sometimes go to extreme levels that make us see how ridiculous a lot of these moral restrictions can be when you look at them from another perspective. Is this something you are trying to do?

LABRUCE: It’s setting up a kind of politically correct scenario and then not giving a damn. It is the difference between fantasy and reality. Our sexual imaginations can be very dark, complicated and disturbing at times, and instead of making people feel guilty or torturing them for having these thoughts, I want my films to be a kind of collective unconscious, where people can work on these things rather than acting on them in real life.

That’s the function of porn, after all.


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