After Federico Fellini’s 8½ but before Rob Marshall’s Nine there was Bruce La Bruce’s “8 3/4” – better known as Super 8½, La Bruce’s no-budget mix of cleverness, self-indulgence, and explicit sex.
Having just watched the film, my three biggest complaints are: a) at about 100 minutes, Super 8½ is way too long; b) the lead character is hard to swallow (no pun intended); c) much of the dialogue is inaudible.
On the positive side, a handful of the supporting characters are quite funny, while La Bruce makes great use of pop songs to accompany the action – which mostly consists of people talking at the camera while reminiscing about down-on-his-luck former sex star Bruce (played by La Bruce himself).
And who was this Bruce guy?
Paraphrasing a lesbian documentary filmmaker (Stacy Friedrich) who “exploits” him, Bruce was an existentialist 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); the mind behind and the penis in front of productions such as “I Am a Fugitive from a Gang Bang,” “Ride, Queer, Ride,” and “No Skin Off My Ass” (the title of a 1991 La Bruce-directed film; I’m not sure if the first two titles are matches as well).
It’s too bad that its potential is left unrealized, for Super 8½ could have been a great, daring comedy, treading on territory into which, say, John Waters, Paul Morrissey, and Andy Warhol never dared to venture. But with La Bruce’s Bruce coming across as such an irritating figure, after half an hour I was no longer interested in hearing any more insights into his character traits. Boredom set in and wouldn’t let go.
Yet, for those willing to sit through it, Super 8½ offers several creative moments – e.g., an explicit (and bizarre) sex scene featuring Bruce and a driver whose car he steals (other sex scenes in the film, however, are a big yawn) – and some quirky, funny supporting performances, most notably those of Stacy Friedrich and Christeen Martin as incestuous lesbian sisters (I think).
Summing it up: Super 8½ could have been an excellent experimental 30-minute short.
Super 8½ (1995). Direction & Scr.: Bruce La Bruce. Cast: Bruce La Bruce, Stacy Friedrich, Mikey Mike, Nicholas Davies (a.k.a. Klaus von Brücker), Christeen Martin, Kate Ashley, Scott Thompson, Mike Gibb.