Published Sep 26, 2010I'm about to use the words "hardcore gay porno" a lot. First, because they are the best three words to describe L.A. Zombie, and second, because director Bruce LaBruce used them about 15 times in a hilarious warning/preamble during the film's Toronto International Film Festival premiere.
It's also a relevant distinction because LaBruce's previous gay zombie movie (Otto; Or, Up with Dead People) was also labelled "hardcore gay porno" by many, but wasn't at all. It's actually a beautiful meditation on loneliness, possibly AIDS and the art of filmmaking. Otto works on several levels; it deftly quotes Herbert Marcuse, has a pretentious Nordic filmmaker offering a layer of ironic removal and even touches audiences with a rather tender teen love story.
L.A. Zombie has beefy man-on-man sex, and plenty of it. A ripped Zombie (think Brock Lesnar) emerges from the ocean and fucks the life back into various victims of L.A. violence. There are a few, shall we say, "sweet" moments, a dash of comedy (the zombie struggling to order a coffee) and a hint of realism, with a homeless man's shelter used as a set. If you aren't into gay porno and want to sample the growing LaBruce zombie canon, Otto is the far better introduction.
If, however, you are into hardcore gay porno, then it would be difficult to find a more aesthetically pleasing one than this. Shot on digital HD, some moments wonderfully capture the stark beauty of L.A. A shot of a sunrise glistening on the water even calls to mind Claire Denis' Trouble Everyday.
This was the so-called "softcore version," which LaBruce prepares especially for festivals. An unbelieving audience member wondered what could possibly have been left for the hardcore version — "35 more minutes of fucking." Makes sense: the financing did come from pornographers; it will be playing on porno pay-per-view, where sex is the priority; and it stars some of the biggest names in the gay porn biz.
This film has received many zero star ratings, especially from Toronto press. LaBruce thanked Torontoist for their zero star dismissal, claiming that as an unapologetic purveyor of trash, a zero-star rating is like a four-star rating to him.
These haughty scribes seem unwilling to accept L.A. Zombie on its terms as a "hardcore gay art porno." Maybe they don't want such a genre to exist, thinking: "Let's keep our porno out of the mainstream and poorly made!" I think here in Toronto they want their experimental filmmakers nice and safe like Guy Maddin. They don't want horrific anteater dicks jizzing blood. (Dark Alley)