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Super 8½ (Movie 1994): Gay Sex + Kane + Fellini Hodgepodge

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Super 8½ Bruce La Bruce Klaus von BrückerSuper with Bruce La Bruce and Klaus von Brücker: La Bruce’s skinhead “motif” was also found in his previous feature, No Skin Off My Ass (1991), also with von Brücker. Later on, skinheads would have lead roles in the filmmaker’s Skin Gang / Skin Flick (1999).
  • Super 8½ (movie 1994) movie review: Social commentary and explicit gay sex are uneasily blended in actor-filmmaker Bruce La Bruce’s chaotically subversive, self-indulgent, and way overlong romp.

Super 8½ (movie 1994) review: Citizen Kane meets Federico Fellini and hardcore gay sex in Bruce La Bruce’s narrative hodgepodge

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

More than three decades after Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical classic and 15 years before Rob Marshall’s box office bomb Nine, Canadian underground filmmaker Bruce La Bruce came up with “8¾” – or rather, Super 8½, a no-budget mix of social commentary, self-indulgence, and explicit gay sex.

The three biggest problems with Super 8½ are the following:

  • Unlike Marcello Mastroianni’s Guido Anselmi or – another cinematic inspiration – Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane, the movie’s lead character is all but impossible to watch, let alone empathize with.
  • At about 100 minutes, the narrative seems to drag on endlessly.
  • Much of the dialogue is inaudible.

On the positive side, Super 8½ features a handful of humorous supporting characters, while La Bruce makes great use of pop songs to accompany the action – which mostly consists of people talking to the camera while reminiscing about down-on-his-luck former sex star Bruce (played by La Bruce himself).

Gay porn existentialist

And who was this Bruce guy?

Paraphrasing a lesbian documentary filmmaker (Stacy Friedrich) who “exploits” him, Bruce was an existentialist thinker trapped in a gay porn star’s body; a swishy type who, Citizen Kane-like, may have been a genius or an asshole or both.

In addition, Bruce was the mind behind and the penis in front of productions like “I Am a Fugitive from a Gang Bang,” “Ride, Queer, Ride,” and “No Skin Off My Ass” (the title of a 1991 Bruce La Bruce feature).

Unrealized potential

It’s too bad that the humorous potential of Super 8½ is left unrealized, for the film could have become a gay underground classic like Frank Ripploh’s Taxi zum Klo and Jean Genet’s Un chant d’amour – one perhaps too gutsy even for the likes of John Waters, Paul Morrissey, and Andy Warhol.

But with La Bruce’s Bruce coming across as such an obnoxious figure, viewers will likely give up on him long before the final credits – new insights into his character be damned.

Yet those willing to sit through Super 8½ will just as likely be amused by a few clever bits – e.g., a weird, explicit sex scene with Bruce and a driver whose car he steals (the film’s other sex scenes are a big yawn) – and by Stacy Friedrich and Christeen Martin’s (one assumes) incestuous lesbian sisters.

In sum: With some careful reimagining of the lead character, Super 8½ might well have been a satisfying experimental 30-minute short.

Super 8½ (movie 1994) cast & crew

Direction & Screenplay: Bruce La Bruce.

Cast: Bruce La Bruce, Stacy Friedrich, Mikey Mike, Klaus von Brücker, Christeen Martin, Kate Ashley, Scott Thompson, Mike Gibb.

Cinematography: Donna Mobbs.

Film Editing: Manse James & Robert Kennedy.

Producers: Jürgen Brüning & Bruce La Bruce.

Production Companies: Gaytown Productions | Jürgen Brüning Filmproduktion.

Distributor: Strand Releasing (United States, 1995).

Running Time: 99 min.

Country: Canada | Germany.

Super 8½ (Movie 1994): Gay Sex + Kane + Fellini Hodgepodge” endnotes

Super 8½ movie credits via the British Film Institute (BFI) website.

Klaus von Brücker and Bruce La Bruce Super 8½ movie image: Gaytown Productions | Jürgen Brüning Filmproduktion.

Super 8½ (Movie 1994): Gay Sex + Kane + Fellini Hodgepodge” last updated in April 2023.

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