The visionary underground director premieres his latest investigation into surreal lo-fi cinema on Dazed Digital
Bruce LaBruce is a name synonymous with some of the most extreme underground cinema being made today. There is nothing the Toronto-based auteur shies away from and his work veers from B-movie-esque schlock to extreme and in-your-face gay pornography. He is without doubt one of the most exciting filmmakers of the zeitgeist and Dazed Digital are proud to exclusively present his latest offering The Bad Breast. Shot on a toy camera it explores the relationship between Melanie Klein and Anna Freud follwing the death of her profoundly influential psychoanalyst father – in the most surreal way imaginable. There are shades here of Richard Kern's early work but LaBruce's film is far more than an homage to such forbears, and brings what filmmakers such as Kern sought to achieve in the 80s kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.
Dazed Digital: Do you think we live in an era of nihilism, and that our art is beginning to reflect that?
Bruce LaBruce: I don't know if it's an era of nihilism, but I think we certainly live in very cynical and jaundiced times. It's like Yeats said, 'The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.' Perfect description. Of course art does reflect that, but I think it's more about certain artists being all too willing to indulge in the more grotesque aspects of advanced capitalism. When artists become members of the super-elite, their work loses touch with the qualities that make art interesting: compassion, social and political struggle, content, outsider freakishness. Those are the things that interest me, anyway. I'm so tired of players. Warhol was the last artist who managed to be a complete freak outsider and an art insider at the same time. His wealth was immaterial to him because he couldn't buy love with it.
DD: What inspired The Bad Breast Movie, what's it all about?
Bruce LaBruce: The Bad Breast or The Strange Case of Theda Lange was a theatre project I developed and directed at the end of 2009 and which was performed in Berlin and Vienna. It was inspired by the life and theoretical writings of Melanie Klein, one of the psychoanalytic thinkers who interpreted Freud's work after his death (the other main figure was Freud's daughter, Anna Freud, who was Klein's arch-rival). The Bad Breast starred the two co-stars of my movie Otto or Up with Dead People, Susanne Sachsse, as a neurotic, nymphomaniacal stage actress who is sexually fixated on her own son, and Katharina Klewinghaus, who plays her repressed Kleinian psychoanalyst. The piece also featured Vaginal Davis and Nando Messias, among other awesome performance artists. For all the scenes that took place outdoors, I used video footage shot with the Digital Harinezumi camera, a tiny Japanese toy camera that makes footage that looks like Super 8mm. My assistant, Alejandro Duran, shot and edited the footage and I directed it.
DD: What would you say drives you as a filmmaker? What do hope to communicate in your work?
Bruce LaBruce: I'm a complete cinephile. Movies are one of my most intense forms of pleasure. In high school I wanted to be a film critic. I took film production for two years at university, but I thought I could never be a filmmaker because it was too expensive and too technically complicated for me. But then Super 8mm saved my life. After hanging out in the late-80s with punks and underground artists working in Super 8mm, I realised it's more about just making movies and not worrying about all the other stuff. I started making short experimental films that were very personal, with a documentary aspect, but that were also experimenting with formalism and the disjunction between sound and image. I also developed a political consciousness to my filmmaking.
DD: Why do you think it is important to push things to extremes, what do you find interesting about that process?
Bruce LaBruce: I always maintained that pornography is like cheap special effects. When you make no-budget films like I do, you really have to do something to draw attention to your work. That's the easy answer. The more difficult answer has to do with my 'velvet rage'. I grew up in a very repressed, rural environment that was quite hostile to any hint of homosexuality, so I had to bottle everything up for years and build up all sorts of defense mechanisms. After a few muddled years in Toronto, it all finally came pouring out. There was lot of rage there, but also, improbably, a very romantic impulse as well. I always used gay porn as a political weapon, to push homosexuality into the faces of those who hated or judged me for it. But the key to my work, I think, is that the most extreme fetishes and taboos are represented in a romantic, compassionate way. That's what some people can't wrap their minds around.