share the shame: bruce labruce on his newly published 'porn diaries'

The cult filmmaker’s new book is a hilarious account of his accidental career in pornography and art house cinema.

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Aug 22 2016, 2:56pm

Bruce LaBruce, the Canadian cult porn filmmaker, writer and photographer — best known for his feature films Hustler White and The Raspberry Reich — recently released a new book, Porn Diaries: How to Succeed in Hardcore without Really Trying. The book launch took place at Berlin's legendary gay sex club, Ficken3000 (which translates to Fuck3000 and has a sign above the bar that reads "Share the Shame").

The seedy, mirrored club was packed; the bomber jacket-clad crowd spilled onto the streets on a barren strip in Neukölln. LaBruce snaked through the crowd taking photos of people with his iPhone, which he uploaded to Instagram. He then grabbed a microphone to introduce his new book and get a little dirty. "I think you're all wearing way too many clothes right now," he said. "It's time to get naked."

It was the perfect introduction to the book, a collection of writing on the topic of pornography. From hilarious shooting diaries to set photos and a romp through LaBruce's inner dialogue, the book includes photos he has taken over the years for porn magazines and interviews with porn legends, as well as essays, articles, and portraits. "Porn Diaries is kind of like a high-end fanzine," said LaBruce. "The book meanders to a lot of topics, like my philosophy of camp, my philosophy of homosexuality, my philosophy of filmmaking — there's a lot of philosophizing going on."

Decoding the book's subtitle is a different story: "How to succeed in hardcore without really trying," raises a few questions. Is trying such a bad thing? LaBruce doesn't think so, but it taps into his own unpredictable destiny. "By 'without really trying,' I'm talking about my own experience — I never set out to be a pornographer," he said. "I considered my early Super 8 short films and my first three feature films as art films with sexually explicit content; but as I gained a reputation as a pornographer, as did my producer Jurgen Brüning, we decided to start making 'real' porn." That was the time Brüning started Berlin's first porn production company, Cazzo Film, in 1996. "I started making narrative art films with porn actors and making two versions: softcore and hardcore," said LaBruce, who has two version of his films Skin Flick, L.A. Zombie, and The Raspberry Reich.

The book is wildly entertaining and hilarious in some production diaries, where he describes how porn actors struggle with scripts and that onset catering tastes like jail food. The book is about so much more than just sex;  LaBruce is like the Oz behind the curtain, pulling it to reveal the reality of porn filmmaking behind its smoothly edited fantasy. "I've always been interested in the conventions and mechanics of porn and my films tend to draw attention to these, and kind of deconstruct them," he explains. "I've worked well within the conventions of porn, but when I do, I like to push the boundary and try to make it as much like a narrative feature as possible; I also quite often portray characters who are filmmakers or pornographers, which results in films-within-the-film. It creates a kind of distance toward the sexual content, and makes people self-conscious of their viewership and of porn conventions. One critic from Flash Art once called me a 'pornographic Brecht.'"

The book also offers light onto the challenges of indie filmmaking — it requires patience, hard work and endless tweaking. In one production diary, LaBruce is nerve-wracked — he's fighting with production assistants, dealing with amateur costume designers, and swears that the house he's shooting in is haunted. But something seems to keep him going.

"I have a strange drive that compels me to make films, even though I find it enormously challenging; if I don't make a feature after a certain period of time, I start to get depressed and anxious," said LaBruce. "What really keeps me coming is the feedback I get from people; the ones who tell me how my films have influenced or inspired them and who encourage me to keep going." 

This book is like a sequel to his 1998 memoirs, The Reluctant Pornographer, which was a collection of his columns from Canadian magazines. This collection includes more recent writings of LaBruce and previously unpublished shooting diaries from 2009's L.A. Zombie. In one production diary for The Raspberry Reich, from 2002, LaBruce writes about a fight he got into with one of his art directors who didn't want him to cover the walls of the gang's apartment with portraits of famous terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden. Today, LaBruce's work and reference to terrorism holds a different meaning. "I don't think terrorism is quite as glamorous as it used to be," said LaBruce, who was inspired by radical left terrorist groups from the 1970s like the Red Army Fraction and the Weathermen, who LaBruce recalls as having a "sexualized" image. "These fractions all believed in free love."

He's still shooting porn at 52-years old. His most recent short, Refugees Welcome, which will be released via Erika Lust Films, follows a love story between a Czech poet and a Syrian refugee in Berlin. He also just wrapped up production for a feature called The Misandrists, which is based around a group of feminist lesbian terrorists who plot a sexual revolution with lesbian porn. "It incorporates aspects of camp, 70s softcore pornography, melodrama, even romantic comedy," he said. "It's also highly political and decidedly feminist."

The free love in his films ties into LaBruce's own philosophy of love. Just as one character named Gudrun from The Raspberry Reich said heterosexual monogamy is a "bourgeois construct that must be destroyed," it's a reflection of LaBruce's own "militantly anti-monogamy" outlook. "I'm in an open marriage and I fall in love with other people all the time," he said. "You gotta share the wealth!"

Credits


Text Nadja Sayej
Images courtesy of Bruce LaBruce