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Caroline Hagood

Caroline Hagood
Brooklyn, New York,
November 23
I'm a writer living in Brooklyn. My articles have appeared in various publications, including The Guardian, Salon, the Huffington Post, and The Economist. My first book of poems, Lunatic Speaks, is available from FutureCycle Press and my second poetry book, Making Maxine's Baby, is available from Hanging Loose Press:


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Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 22, 2010 12:16AM

LaBruce:Pornographic Artist or Artistic Pornographer?

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A purveyor of both the visual and libidinal arts, when it comes to genre, Bruce LaBruce is something of a riddle. Who is LaBruce exactly? Punk Zine Publisher? Reluctant Pornographer? Underground Filmmaker? Writer and Photographer? Granted, he has written and photographed for publications such as Vice, Index, and BlackBook, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; but the question remains: LaBruce, pornographic artist, or artistic pornographer?



There’s a bit of a through-the-looking-glass effect at work when it comes to judging LaBruce’s films. They are either hardcore sex films with art in them or hardcore art films with sex (yes, even stumping—look it up, I’m not about to tell you) in them, depending on which side of the mirror of taste you’re standing. 

As he frames it in a Salon interview, if you put his work in a smutty context (behind those little curtains at now almost extinct video stores, for example) it’s smut, and if you put it in a respectable context (a film that plays Sundance as his film Otto; or Up with Dead People did, for example), it’s respectable. But finally, true to its tomato, tomat-oh nature, we must call the whole thing off in light of LaBruce’s own conclusion in that same Salon interview: "I don't like to make a value judgment as to which context is more valuable -- art or porn."

Belying their director’s degree in film theory, LaBruce’s films seek to subvert the conventions of standard sex and art films. The fusion of political activism, critical theory, zombie camp, and hardcore porn is no easy feat. Even the term “taboo” seems a little flimsy here.

Last night, a strange film invaded my mind. In the interest of brushing up on my underground film knowledge, I Netflixed my way into LaBruce’s Otto; or Up with Dead People. It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to a political-gay-porno-zombie-flick, but I’ll make a valiant attempt to unwind its mad coil of sensory data.

Let me set the visual stage by saying that in Otto, it’s as though LaBruce has taken everything he finds disturbing, fascinating, or tantalizing, placed it in a witch’s pot, and then proceeded to bludgeon it.

Given the humorous contortions my face underwent, I kind of wish I had filmed myself while I was watching it. I went from laughing hysterically, to shaking my head, to lowering the volume on the gay zombie orgy to protect the delicate ears of my (I’m sure already deeply perplexed) neighbors.

It must be said that LaBruce is clearly smart; it also must be said that it doesn’t hurt that Otto (Jey Crisfar) looks like this (even after zombification):


I confess that I found myself wishing I were a gay zombie and that I knew how to say “so bleeping hot” in Dutch or French. I guess I have a thing for blood-splattered, Belgian, Josh Hartnett doppelgangers with white demon eyes and indie fashion sense. Look, it’s not easy to be that smoking while covered in mud and gore, chomping on a cat tail;


or after a bloody, coital encounter:


Otto is a (formerly human and vegetarian) zombie who has recently been dumped by his beau. The film-within-a-film aspect comes about when Otto meets Medea (Katharina Klewinghaus playing just one of the film’s many heady allusions) who is making a political-porno-zombie movie. She thinks he’s acting; he thinks he’s a zombie--tomato, tomat-oh.

So, if you’re ever in the mood for a movie that contains all of the following--commentary on gay hate crimes; a groovin’ soundtrack; references to (among many, many others) Herbert Marcuse, Gogol, and W. Somerset Maugham; characters whose insides are continuously blooming and ballooning out of them; a variety of filmic formats; signifiers let loose without a signified; discomfort, disbelief, stimulation, and alienation—then Netflix some LaBruce today.




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Maybe I'm just jaded because I love this potential cult classic B movie kind of stuff, but this just seems rather campy, bordering on the absurd. It might be interesting to watch visually, if you don't have high expectations, but this certainlydoesn't look like anything worth getting offended over. Something that is pornographic doesn't necessarily have to be pornography
Fine, Caroline, we'll do.
Placebostudman: that's the thing. there's nothing offensive about the movie. It's fun and out there. It's just interesting to see how critics group him either as a pornographer or as an artist a lot of the time, when really, he just wants to make sexy, weird, artsy movies.

Thoth: I expect a full report of your facial expressions throughout. I really enjoyed the experience.
Labels? That's a critics genre as far as I'm concerned. Artists just want to create. Fuck the labels.

He's genius.
Sort of like John Waters meets Rob Zombie? Not a whole lot new or shocking here... but interesting if you are into bringing sexy back with zombies...
I am just never going to see a movie made by a director who doesn't realize that cat tail is only good with pickled chipotles. I mean, really!
I love a good Somerset Maugham reference. In fact, pledge to reference Somerset Maugham in a meeting today. "I find your ad copy a bit, well, Maughamish, Ellen. I'm looking for something a little more Faulknerian." Yeah, that'll get me what I want.
Caroline is on the cover. YAY! Gotta run this sec, but I'll be back to read.
I never heard of LaBruce. Does that make me uncool? Good piece though. Thanks for the introduction. (He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Yoiks!)
Otto is by turns provocative, hilarious, gory and pornographic and includes a lugubriously lyrical soundtrack with songs by Jean-Louis Huhta, Pandas of Black Metal, The Living Dead Boys and Brittle Stars. Fashionistas will enjoy the costumes and makeup, which effectively transform the actors; in fact, I found the self-consciously dark Gothic glamour of the makeup and costuming to be particularly compelling. La Bruce utilizes Otto's blank slate to examine alienation, outsider sex, schizophrenia, lost love and decadent art. The film drags a bit, with scenes repeated from different viewpoints, but overall I found the characters seductive and intriguing. The segments depicting Medea's campy goth lover Hella Bent (Susanne Sachße), who appears onscreen only in aged, nickelodeon Black & White, with intertitles to represent her dialogue, had M. Chariot giggling uncontrollably.
Sparking: okay, labels shmabels:)

Mary: John Waters meets Rob Zombie: exactly!

AtHomePilgrim: your comment is simultaneously wise and har-har-worthy.

Frank: can't wait to hear how the reference goes over...

Bonnie: glad you liked

Trig: I know, I was rather shocked too.

John: nothing could make you uncool in my mind after your dog bowel piece.

Monsieur Chariot: (as mentioned earlier on your blog) you, my friend, are a gem. Your comment is phenomenal.
Congrats on the EP! It's difficult to practice "safe sex" when having sex with a zombie.
Bruce missed a prime opportunity to make a movie about ultimate gay zombie -- Jesus Christ.

Hey it's all in the gospels. I don't make this stuff up!
LaBruce has made the strongest run at becoming Bunuel or Fellini that I've seen in years...the image of Otto and the woman with the pure La Dolce Vita only blown out, post punk...actually La Dolce Vita looked that way in its time as well...that blown out youthful post party where are we going now's in the LOOK that LaBruce achieves Dali, Bunuel and Fellini he pulls out every dream nightmare vision he has and throws it down...I find LaBruce very mature in the manicure he gives his images...more later...thank you for a great post...xox
And for the question regarding sex/art...I think his films are destined to become the films of LaBruce. They will stand in film history. xox
a brialliant underground activity: youtube videos of people watching the film... I saw the original Up With People in highschool, did they spoof that?
"Who is LaBruce exactly? Punk Zine Publisher? Reluctant Pornographer? Underground Filmmaker? Writer and Photographer?"
How about all of the above?
As an aficionado of porn, I like some of all porn (though, like everything else, %90 of porn is crap), and OTTO is probably my favorite gay porn. But you won't like OTTO unless you are an aficionado of all porn, or just into gay (male) porn.
But my favorite porn is still "9 Songs" (which isn't really porn, but is explicit), but OTTO ranks probably up there in the top 10.
This raises the age-old question, would you let a zombie eat you?
great intro to the world of an intriguing artist...rated
To Robert Brenner
If you do, then you become a sex zombie.
Zombie sex has become extremely popular in the underground porn scene, as people dressed-up and made-up to look dead and having hawt sex is extremely hawt.
Don't worry about it though, I have been a sex zombie for over 18 years now.
Bruce has done some interesting stuff. "Rasberry Reich" is very funny, especially its now obscure references to Godard's old obsession with Mao. But Larry Clark is a much better filmmaker, and he has better taste in young men. And Bruce will never make a film as great as "Kids."
littlewillie: darn near impossible. thanks.

David: I feel that LaBruce would probably agree with you there.

Robin: it would be very interesting to see his porno-camp will become the new wave.

NOVacatmando: those would be such good videos. I wonder if anyone has done that yet. I don't know if they spoofed it. I'll have to look into that one.

fetboy: yes, all of the above is probably a good description. I like how 9 Songs is as much about the music as the sexual encounters.

Robert: that is, indeed, the age old question.

mistercomedy: thanks. I hope your comic mental travels are going swimmingly.

BOKO: Kids is pretty dope, as the kids say.
Precious Caroline Hagood
Don't forget the fly-overs over Antarctica, and all in a feature just barely over an hour long.
I wish they made more such explicit erotica like "9 Songs" and "OTTO".
ah yes, how could I forget the fly-overs...
Hey Caroline, I came to tell you how excited I was this got EP. When I reread my comment, I hope you didn't think I meant about your trying to label it...sorry if it came across that way. I understand he is something of a new breed. What I was meaning to say was critics (not you) always try to pigeon hole artists - they did this to Dali and then he had somewhat of a "fall" from grace when he worked outside of the medium he became known for. I find that unfortunate.

That's what I really meant. :)
Sparking, thanks for clarifying, but I totally understood what you meant:)
I'm just reading the comments, and wondering how all this would go over on a site like World Net Daily.

That pretty much sums up my reaction.