Director, scriptwriter, ziner, columnist, critic. Toronto’s most in-your-face queer filmmaker, Bruce LaBruce holds many records: one of our best known auteurs internationally, his four feature films are the most difficult to access nationally; the only Perspectives Canada perennial honoree to have been omitted from Rist (2001) and Wise (2001) (which includes Neve Campbell!); the only auteur to have sucked and been fucked in closeup onscreen and to have included Bergman on his all-time “top ten” list for Sight and Sound and published academic film criticism on Peewee Herman and HIV/AIDS (under the name of Bryan Bruce for Toronto’s Cineaction! in the 1980s); the only major Canadian filmmaker never to have received any government arts grants.
A small town Ontario boy made good in Toronto, LaBruce started his filmmaking career with underground Super 8 sex films such as I Know What It’s Like to Be Dead (1987), and scored his first feature hit with the no-budget Warhol-esque romance No Skin Off My Ass (1991), featuring LaBruce in love with a skinhead street boy, and his far out sister making a movie about it. Super 8 ½ (1994) was a kind of remake of elements of that film, more ambitious and complex with its interwoven narratives of Bruce the down and out porn star being exploited by up and coming lesbian filmmaker Googie for her new film, and including a fine repeat performance by his skinhead consort. Hustler White (1996) followed with LaBruce’s obsession with sexwork crystallizing in a pseudo-quasi-documentary shot on Santa Monica Boulevard. For his next feature, LaBruce’s perennial German producer Jorge Brüning took him across the Atlantic, and their skinhead potboiler was shot in London and Berlin, entitled Skin Flick (1999), with a hard core version called Skin Gang. Assaulting audiences with its deliberately provocative transmission of skinhead violence and racism, and implicating them in its eroticization, Skin Flick/Gang demonstrated an edge that few artists would risk. Meanwhile with scarcely any pauses in his fierce, astute and witty journalistic output (from the underground zine J.D.s of the 1980s to the biweekly columns/critiques for Toronto’s Eye Weekly since 1997), LaBruce’s unremitting artistic growth has been as priapic as it has profound (R of T, ch. 8).