“Everyone has a fetish when you really break it down,” Bruce LaBruce states rather nonchalantly. And who would disagree with one of the pioneers of the queercore cinema movement?
After spending decades shocking audiences with provocative and sexually charged arthouse films, photography, art, and writing, the avant-garde and always-on-the-move director made a bold decision with his latest work, Gerontophilia. That decision: To deliver something new for the mainstream audience, without entirely disregarding his deep roots in gay pornography, sexual taboos, and fetishism.
Clearly a departure from past works such as No Skin Off My Ass and Super 8 ½, LaBruce used Gerontophilia to foray into the mainstream by simply eliminating the pornographic aspect of his story and still maintaining the provocative and sexual narratives for which the director is best known. Gerontophilia follows the journey of Lake, a young French Canadian man who makes a sexual self-discovery. Our flawed hero is perceived as pure and innocent, yet like all of us, he still has natural sexual impulses and of course, fetishes. Lake is a gerontophile, a young person who is sexually attracted to the elderly.
“The fetish of gerontophilia is about impermanence. A young person desires a very old person, the older the better, but that elderly person obviously will not be around for long. It can’t last forever,” says LaBruce. He goes on to point out, “Everyone has some sort of fetish. At times is may be mysterious or a secret, but to you it is respected. It’s something that you worship.”
Gerontophilia embraces the secrets of our human nature, whether audiences have the stomach to acquiesce or not. Our own fetishes are indeed worshipped, almost treated with religious reverence at times. Throughout the film, we find young Lake experiencing deep, religious connections with his own sexuality and frequently suffering the consequences of doing so.
Beautifully shot, Bruce LaBruce gave Gerontophilia an almost timeless appearance. “We wanted a 70’s vibe, so we shot on the ARRI Alexis and chose some Zeiss prime lenses from the 70’s,” LaBruce states. “It’s hard to capture that look with digital anymore. So we also used provided light as much as possible and shot the care home scenes in an abandoned Chinese care home built in the 70’s. So much of the look we wanted was already present in the building.”
“Texture was another factor. Like when Lake is driving this old car with plenty of textures in it. The design and the narrative are a reminder of porn from the 1970’s.” Is this perhaps a nod to LaBruce’s early beginning in the film industry? Having started with low-budget Super 8 films while in grad school, LaBruce gradually moved into gay pornography at the height of the punk movement. Creating porn with an actual storyline, and introducing non-traditional factors such as female characters in gay porn films, LaBruce pushed the envelope of homosexuality to be provocative. “I wanted to put it in people’s faces,” states the director.
The queercore movement was born in the 1980’s and LaBruce was one of the fathers. Noted as the avant-garde and unapologetic gay answer to the punk movement, queercore expressed the very same discontent with society as the punks were stating. However, through the vehicles of gay music, film, writing, art, and pornography, queercore further confronted society’s discontent with the LGBT community. Noting that audiences can often become disgusted with facing the gritty truths underlying the queercore movement, LaBruce states, “I always created a softcore and a hardcore version of my films. The hardcore usually gets banned, but it’s always there for those who want to see it.”
Still a queercore punk at heart, LaBruce recently followed Gerontophilia with a screen adaptation of Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Modified to add a transgender element to the work, LaBruce changed the lead role of Pierrot to a trans-man. Once audiences recover from the initial shock of creative liberties, they discover the German melodrama is still buried deep within the work.
Recent works such as Gerontophilia and Pierrot Lunaire are currently making their rounds on the international film festival circuit, and director Bruce LaBruce’s provocative and highly sexualized work continues to garner awards worldwide. With or without the sex.
Read our film review on Gerontophilia
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Bruce LaBruce