The Advocate For Fagdom


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Advocate For Fagdom
"There's lots of great material and La Bruce himself speaks at length about what his work has meant to him at different stages in his career." | Photo: Angélique Bosio/Berlinale

Gay zombie porn directors who are also hailed as auteurs and invent music genres in their spare time are few and far between. As such, it's fair to say the Bruce La Bruce - the man behind such classics as The Raspberry Reich and Otto; Or, Up With Dead People - is something of a phenomenon. This documentary sets out to reveal the man behind the legend but isn't terribly good at concealing the fact that its makers were in love with his work before they started.

Documentaries approached in this way risk become tediously hagiographic. Fortunately that really isn't possible when dealing with a subject who has such a strong self-deprecating sense of humour, plus a tendency to undermine any accepted idea - including his own talent - if in doing so he can make an artistic point. It would also be difficult with contributors like Harmony Korine, whose wandering anecdotes ought perhaps not to be taken at face value. John Waters and Gus Van Sant also appear in an impressive list of interviewees, making this a must for fans of edgy, queer filmmaking. There's lots of great material and La Bruce himself speaks at length about what his work has meant to him at different stages in his career.

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Fans often come to films like this hoping to see clips of some of their favourite bits from a creative artist's work. Not everything you might expect is here but there are still a few great scenes, which will also help to show newcomers what the fuss is about. More interesting, though, are the behind the scenes clips. There are a lot of these, going back a long way, and they contribute to La Bruce's ongoing project of kicking against the fourth wall. Actors lounge around on set covered in gore or possessed of substantial erections, casually chatting about day to day life. At an art exhibition, guests climb one by one into a blood-soaked bed to pose for portraits with a gleaming iridescent zombie, and there are the usual shy giggles that accompany those who are not used to it getting their photos taken. La Bruce reveals that he used to meet people who would ask for introductions to the thriving queer punk scene he wrote about in his seminal zine, The Advocate, at which point he had to admit that he'd just made it up - but then, of course, they went away and made it happen for real.

This is a film that tends to meander and is overlong for its format - it needs a stronger sense of direction to bind together its disparate parts. Despite this, it's an interesting look at a man who, despite the apparent triviality of his subject matter, has done a great deal to challenge filmmaking conventions and to enable those frequently objectified by mainstream culture to speak with their own voices. It's also very funny in places, and warm-hearted throughout. Naturally those of a sensitive disposition should steer clear and there are bound to be people who just don't get why work like La Bruce's is worthy of consideration at all, but for those who share the director's love of pushing boundaries, this is well worth a look.

Reviewed on: 04 Jun 2011
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The Advocate For Fagdom packshot
A look at the rise and rise of gay zombie porn meister BruceLaBruce.
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Director: Angelique Bosio

Starring: Bruce LaBruce, John Waters, Gus Van Sant, Rick Castro

Year: 2010

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: France


Doc/Fest 2011

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