Wednesday, September 29, 2010

L.A. Zombie

This is my third out of three TIFF film reviews and I will also be writing a festival report. - David Davidson

L.A. Zombie (Bruce La Bruce, 2010)
** (Worth Seeing)

Bruce LaBruce's L.A. Zombie was enthusiastically presented by Noah Cowan at its TIFF 2010 premiere. The big controversy about the film was that it was turned away from the Melbourne International Film Festival for being too vulgar. Mr. LaBruce describes L.A. Zombie as an alien-zombie-gay-pornographic film and boasted about the zero star ranking in the Toronto Star, “Its just as hard to get no stars as it is to get four”. L.A. Zombie begins with scenic establishment shots of a Los Angeles beach with the water crashing against rocks and sand. The water goes off into the horizon, seagulls are standing on a rock and then an eerie naked zombie (François Sagat; a freakish male porn star) comes out of the ocean, ready to wreck havoc. In an original twist of the Romeroean zombie fable where traditionally the undead infects victims by biting them, François as the zombie has to stick his alien penis into his victims and then ejaculate a black fluid onto their open wounds, whether it is in their stomachs or a hole in their head.

In an interview between Bruce LaBruce and the artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival Olivier Père, Mr. LaBruce says “Zombies can very easily be interpreted as a fear of AIDS. So to create a zombie who heals and brings people back to life through sexual contact and the dissemination of fluids is a strong reversal of the usual paranoid representation of gay sex and AIDS” . In L.A. Zombie François comes out of the ocean looking like a decease, he is bald, has deformed vampire molars, he is muscular and naked, and is painted in bruised blues, bacteria greens and irritated reds. His first victim does not say much. The victim picks up a staggered and shredded clothes François on the side of the lonely highway. There is a fade to black. The car crashes. The man dies. For a brief moment there is so much compassion directed towards this man with the camera lingering around the corpses accompanied by a melancholy tune. This driver picked up the deceased zombie that this led to his early death. There is a moment of silence before the Zombie infects him. Los Angeles homelessness is a supposed subject of the film, similar to LaBruce’s Hustler White (1995), but the gorilla style of inconspicuous filming usually films the Zombie from a distance who has little contact with the surrounding homeless people. I guess, it is more a portrait of the L.A. homeless/schizophrenics in the vein of something like, say, The Soloist (2009), but it is not a subject that is fully explored instead of just presented.

Mr. La Bruce seems to be a Toronto fixation as the Cinema 2 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (approximately four-hundred seats) was packed to see L.A. Zombie. The tiff Bell Lightbox artistic director, Noa Cowan made it appear that the festival has always been a long advocate for the local director and prides itself on premiering his films. The work of Bruce LaBruce is also written about in the book Toronto On Film (tiff publications; 2009). My criticism of the L.A. Zombie is that it is embarrassingly shot and the set design seemed like it was at an elementary school level. The performances were done in a canned theater style, similarly to Sidney Lumet’s gay murder mystery Deathtrap (1982). While the closest relative to it that I can thing of is those late night nymphic soft-core porn movies that would play on Quebecois broadcasting networks. You know, the ones with those bizarre child-like fairy tales with weird costumes and unabashed sex every five minutes. L.A. Zombie leaves one scratching their head more then anything else. Anyways, I can appreciate all the recommendations (i.e. Eye Weekly, Mubi, Cinema Scope, Locarno, TIFF) and I hope more people get a chance to see L.A. Zombie. It is probably going to be a little seen film, and the more recommendations, hopefully will lead to more people seeing it. What the film truly showcases is the visualization of Bruce LaBruce’s imagination and no prudish morals should interfere with its presentation and distribution. – David Davidson

(BELL Lightbox, 350 King Street West, Toronto, ON)

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