Simply put, a Bruce LaBruce film is not for everyone. Neither are the films of Andy Warhol, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, nor John Waters. All four have a unique, decidedly queer, perspective and style. I strongly suggest everyone becomes familiar with all four filmmakers. Warhol and Fassbinder are no longer of this mortal coil and Waters seems settled into his role as an LGBT Community elder. LaBruce is still going strong and proves it with “L.A. Zombie.” This experimental film with scarce dialogue is one wild ride for any viewer. Trust this talented and creative filmmaker, enjoy the journey, and you shall be rewarded.
Zombies seem to be everywhere in modern culture. The undead, flesh-eating creatures can be found in literature, popular music, theatre, television, and of course cinema. LaBruce himself delved into the treacherous territory with “Otto or Up With Dead People.” “L.A. Zombie” picks up where the more linear and narrative “Otto” left off. LaBruceâs usual themes of urban alienation and all matters of the flesh are explored in a film where hardcore sex meets cinematic art. As with every LaBruce film, hidden within the mayhem is a smattering of tender humanity. Thatâs not easy to come by in the filmâs no manâs land Southlands.
The film begins during a dingy dusk at the shoreline, where a turbulent sea acts as the birthplace for a human form. This mountain of muscle is a ghoulish green, wearing a disturbing variety of war paint, and has a mouth distorted by erect fangs. The Zombie is fleshed out by French porn actor and model Francois Saget. It is a surprisingly engaging and exhilarating performance. Ironically enough, the Zombie does not take life but resurrects the lifeless with his seemingly endless source of well, um, semen. The Zombieâs necrophilia actually makes him more human.
“L.A. Zombieâs” images are graphic and gory. The Zombie stumbles across victims of crimes as he wanders through places where societyâs outcasts have been dumped. Sorting through shopping carts of garbage, he discovers what being human may have in store for him. The Zombie switches back from a more human form to an even more horrible undead form. Joe Castroâs make-up captures this transformation expertly. You never know what the Zombie will look like from scene to scene. Artist Director Steve Hall has set the film in Los Angelesâ wastelands, filled with colorful graffiti, abandoned buildings, and imposing fences.
The film is full of those moments out of time that make for cinematic magic. LaBruce has a resurrected corpse reach out to the Zombie and kiss him with the passion of longtime companions. The Zombie enters an appliance box, where three humans have discovered another corpse and have fled, and brings the man back to life with life-affirming sex. Four leather muscle studs appear more human after being slaughtered by their drug dealer when they engage in group sex with the Zombie or rather the Zombie as he once was, because a more familiar Zombie is witnessing the scene through a window.
Director LaBruce in top form in his welcome foray into the genre of experimental film. The filmâs a head-trip, a mind-fuck, and serious social commentary. We expect zombies to revel in the chaos they are usually shown to create, not seek out order. The Zombie becomes self-aware. It is discombobulating to witness LaBruce’s Zombie evolve into a more human creature. Or has he become a more humane creature, who is not necessarily a human being? The Zombie reanimates human life, but is tortured by how often and easily life is extinguished. The very fact that this boundary-pushing film is able to explore such themes with images of sex and violence makes “L.A Zombie” an artistic achievement.
“L.A. Zombie” will be shown Thursday, June 23 at 9:30 p.m. at the Victoria Theater.