- Super 8½ (1994) movie review: Social commentary and explicit gay sex uneasily mix in Bruce La Bruce’s chaotically subversive, self-indulgent, and way overlong romp.
Super 8½ movie review: Citizen Kane meets Federico Fellini + hardcore gay sex in Bruce La Bruce’s narrative hodgepodge
More than three decades after Federico Fellini’s 8½ and 15 years before Rob Marshall’s 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 story 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 La Bruce-directed feature).
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 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 (1994)
Direction & Screenplay: 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.
“Super 8½: Kane Meets Fellini” endnotes
Bruce La Bruce Super 8½ movie image: Gaytown Productions | Jürgen Brüning Filmproduktion.
“Super 8½: Citizen Kane Meets Fellini + Explicit Gay Sex” last updated in September 2021.