Canadian Warholian auteur Bruce LaBruce has risen to a new plateau with this impudent “cautionary biopic.” A fake documentary, “Super 8 1/2” marks a leap in performance and technical prowess from his prior feature, the basement Gus Van Sant “No Skin Off My Ass.” Midnight-movie appeal stands compromised by numerous segs of hardcore (yet strangely funny/banal) sexual activity, plus need to shave a good half-hour off running time.
First hour is willfully sloppy yet hilarious, as alleged former gay porn actor/director Bruce (LaBruce) scrutinizes his life and career for lens of arty docu-inquisitor Googie (Liza Lamonica). Blackout scenes encompass interviews with Bruce (seen in his faux-Warhol Factory apartment), former lovers and sex cinema co-workers, and scene-fringing lesbian punkette “sisters” Wednesday & Jane Friday. Also glimpsed are Bruce’s alleged earlier porn epics, which are graphic yet ridiculously arty, plus broadcast shards of such relatively recent kitsch epics as “Butterfield 8” and “Play It as It Lays.”
Basically formless scenario entertains for a long while until awaited confrontation between Bruce’s boozy, edge-of-breakdown persona and “predatory” helmer Googie. But film badly outstays its welcome, rambling through last 45 minutes'”press conference” (only seg shot in color), interminable clips from helmer’s ostensible prior porn reels (including “I Am a Fugitive From a Gang Bang” and “My Hustler, My Self”) and non-existent denouement.
This final tedium seems needless, given funky, vibrant performances and savvy aesthetic that surrounds them. One late highlight is unspooling of Googie’s own experimental flick “Submit to My Finger,” which employs the Friday sisters to “Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill!”-type effect. It’s frequently difficult to separate flashback, interview and alleged archival sequences into chronological coherence.
Pic’s occasional amateurity of lensing just underlines its anti-mainstream position. LaBruce makes ample fun of his own decadent image throughout and coaxes daft/fearless turns from others. “Super 8 1/2” pushes the envelope of acceptable gay indie cinema; it’s at once clever, indulgent and perilously beyond the pale of conventional taste.