Let’s get a few things out of the way. L.A. Zombie is a hardcore gay porn film. There are numerous scenes of men having graphic sex shot in the manner of pornography, not art film erotica. The film also continues Bruce LaBruce’s longstanding love affair with genre, with plenty of low-tech, half-eaten corpses, lots of spurting blood and a most unusually-shaped zombie penis that dominates the film’s psycho-sexual world. Fair warning?
But L.A. Zombie is very much an art film, too. In fact, it is one of the most poignant films about dashed expectations and the ennui of poverty I can recall by a Canadian filmmaker. Its tone in some ways recalls LaBruce’s revelatory first film, No Skin Off My Ass, but trades in LaBruce’s hairdresser persona for a more fractured narrative gaze, a perspective borne from the city itself and reminiscent of Jacques Rivette’s Paris nous appartient. This sets L.A. Zombie far apart from LaBruce’s last ten years of hardcore work, which has tended to strike a satirical, confrontational tone, perhaps most notably in his agitprop phenomenon The Raspberry Reich.
Aesthetically, L.A. Zombie is a most unusual hybrid. Although LaBruce has been working in digital video since starting to make more sexually explicit work, he had yet to achieve the same cinematographic impact of the stunning black-and-white photography of _ Super 8½_ or the seventies underground aesthetic of Hustler White. L.A. Zombie changes that. LaBruce uses the digital medium to stretch the Los Angeles landscape, using its endless sunsets and radioactive, yellow glow to create an uneasy tone of penniless decadence. Long shots are held for maximum imaginative power and the film plays out in near silence. In many respects, L.A. Zombie feels like an update of and tribute to Joe Gage’s revolutionary late-seventies gay porn trilogy, which, in my mind, is among the finest set of films made in any genre. –TIFF.net
Bruce LaBruce is a writer, film-maker, and photographer stuck in the gulag otherwise known as Toronto, Canada. He started out as a child, then quickly moved on to the production of homo punk fanzines (J.D.s [with G.B. Jones], Dumb Bitch Deserves To Die [with Candy Parker]) and super 8 movies (Boy/Girl, I Know What It’s Like To Be Dead, Bruce and Pepper Wayne Gacy’s Home Movies [with Candy Parker], Slam!). These products helped to launch the so-called Homocore or Queercore movement which corrupted a whole new generation of homosexuals.
In 1991 LaBruce released his first feature length film. No Skin Off My Ass – an exploration of the sordid relationship between a faggoty hairdresser (played by LaBruce himself) and a mute, handsome young skinhead – went on to become a world-wide cult hit. His follow-up feature Super 8 1/2 (1994) is a harrowing cautionary bio-pic about LaBruce’s rocky rise to cult stardom. LaBruce… read more
While digital has freed Labruce up to spend money on make-up effects and let the camera roll in ways he never did before, I think it's also sapped his style. LA Zombie, like Otto before it, is more tepid than his earlier work but the ideas haven't gotten any smaller. LA's homosexuals are fucked back to life by a zombie who may just be the last person looking for them while the world moves on - tragic hardcore.
Criterion releases Chabrol’s first two features, while The Strange Case of Angelica is out from Cinema Guild. Plus, more new DVDs.