Editor’s Note: This is the second of two installments. In part one, ex-pat artist Vaginal Davis and filmmaker Bruce LaBruce discussed their 30-plus-year-long friendship/working relationship, cookie-cutter Hollywood blockbusters and LaBruce’s newest film, The Misandrists. Their confab concludes below.
by Vaginal Davis
Vaginal Davis: There are so few films centered around women, and your movie is off the charts when it comes to showcasing a variety of different types of women of various sizes, shapes and racial backgrounds, and you pass the Bechtel Test. Do you plan to continue in this vein?
Bruce LaBruce: It’s interesting because my short film Give Piece of Ass a Chance, which I directed for the Toronto-based avant-garde female burlesque troupe The Scandelles, was written by them as a lesbian feminist homage to my movie about the radical left, The Raspberry Reich. So with The Misandrists, I basically made a feature film inspired by a short film that was itself inspired by my previous feature! GPAC was really my first all-female film, and it made me realize that I should start working more strictly with female collaborators. With films like Hustler White and L.A. Zombie, I deliberately made films that have no female characters whatsoever. Aside from being a politically incorrect gesture, it was a strategy of depicting a masculine gay fantasy in which the feminine n’existe pas! But especially in the current world climate, I think the opposite strategy is in order, a world without men. A-wo-men! Men are, after all, so vastly overrated.
VD: I love your new talent finds like starlet Kita Updike and all these other women, besides the goddesses Susanne, Kembra (Pfahler) and Viva (Ruiz). I am sick of all the cartoony/superhero/comic book franchise films that are just geared to a young male demographic. Isn’t it time to bring back the women’s picture like in the golden era of Hollywood? There are more women in the world then men, but everything still caters to men’s taste and fantasies, which is beyond dullard. I feel that The Misandrists is just the first step, what’s the next one?
BLAB: Oh yes, I couldn’t agree more. The evil empires of Marvel and Disney occasionally pay lip service to progressive politics, but they are actually just shovelling the same old shit. Their propaganda is controlling the world. If you look at the advent of cable TV, the “golden age of television,” most TV series are still based on the body or bodies of dead, often mutilated women, and most queer characters are portrayed as tragic or incidental. (Transparent is an obvious exception to the rule.) The golden era of Hollywood worshipped its female goddesses, who were quite often billed above their male co-stars, and paid equally if not better. Mae West in her heyday was the most highly paid and powerful entertainer of all. Female film stars were able to have much longer careers in starring roles, as opposed to now, where one set of pretty, dull starlets is soon replaced with another, equally dull set, completely interchangeable. Female stars are relegated to secondary or supporting roles after the age of forty if not sooner, while their male counterparts can sell their craggy faces and saggy jowls into old age, paired up with increasingly younger, disposable female ingenues. Gone are the Mae Wests, Bette Davises, and Joan Crawfords of the classical era, but gone too are the rebellious female stars who survived right up until the seventies, like Ann-Margret, Tuesday Weld, and Jane Fonda. The nadir of the new Hollywood order just occurred with La La Land, a grotesque male fantasy that marginalizes women as bland, whimsical ciphers with no character, framed and controlled by masculine desires. Damien Chazelle is the logical outcome of a completely corrupt patriarchal system, a man who makes films that are quasi-fascist, alt-right, misogynist, and racist. To quote Kathryn Grayson in Kiss Me Kate, “I hate men, I can’t abide them, even now and then”! Women should not demand parity in this corrupt Hollywood system, which is a strategy doomed to failure, but they should take it over completely, and rewrite all the rules. To further quote Kathryn Grayson in Kiss Me Kate (by way of the extremely gay, of course, Cole Porter): “I hate men, they should be kept like piggies in a pen”!
VD: Can you talk about the music in The Misandrists? I adore the Love Theme of The Misandrists by No Bra. You are so detail oriented: the set design, costumes, sound, music. It’s all on equal footing with cinematography and performing. Very Vicente Minnelli or Ernst Lubitsch. In fact I see you as a modern day Rouben Mamoulian. Do you accept that comparison?
BLAB: Perhaps the Rouben Mamoulian of the underground set, thank you. After all, he was a director who worshipped strong goddesses that co-opted masculinity, like Deitrich, and Garbo as Queen Christina, and Cyd Charisse in Silk Stockings, his musical remake of Lubitsch’s Ninotchka. With The Misandrists I tried to collaborate with as many women as possible, with two lesbian feminist producers, a female costume designer, editor, sound recordist and designer, etc. All the music in the film is made by women. The musical score was composed by BunnyCat Productions, aka Madlick, a female musical duo that also did some music for my movie Pierrot Lunaire. Female composers for cinema are rare, so it was great to have their contribution. They really nailed what I was after, a kind of seventies cult movie soundtrack that also pays homage to the softcore erotic films of that era. No Bra, aka Susanne Oberbeck, had contributed her song DoHerFuckHer to my movie “Otto,” so I asked her to compose the love theme from The Misandrists, entitled “As If.” It’s a great feminist lullaby, seducing the audience with its dulcet strains of “Down down down, Down with the Patriarchy.”
(photo credits: Davis portrait by Hector Martinez, LaBruce portrait: Raul Hidalgo)