Friday, May 30, 2014

Gerontophilia (2013): Provoking with Maturity

Gerontophilia (2013)
dir: Bruce LaBruce

SIFF 2014 Film #4

Director Bruce LaBruce is now 50, and was 48 when making Gerontophilia. He wants to fuck a 20 year old.

Gerontophilia is about Lake, a young man (probably 19) who discovers he has a fetish for old men. He hadn't known he was gay, as he has a girlfriend, Desiree. The film opens with Desiree kissing Lake intensely as she rattles off a bunch of radical feminists while perhaps having an orgasm. It's her list of female revolutionaries. Men not allowed.

Lake is first seen with a job as a lifeguard where he's sketching old men floating when one old man is floating upside down. Lake rescues him by giving him mouth to mouth, but then discovers he has a boner and connects the two in his young mind.

Lake's single mother gets a new boyfriend who gets both her and Lake a job at an old folks home, where he starts out with bedpan duty and then gets upgraded to sponge baths. As time goes on, he befriends a firey old queen, Melvin Peabody, who is of sound mind when he's not being drugged, and they embark on a relationship that goes past friendship.

Bruce LaBruce isn't being his usual provocative self here, but that doesn't mean that he isn't provoking. He's just provoking differently. Bruce LaBruce isn't filling Gerontophilia with hardcore pornographic gay sex, as he is wont to do. He isn't filming with an ultra-low-budget aesthetic that is punker than thou. Instead, he is challenging what we think about youth and desires and robbing from the cradle.

To say there isn't hardcore sexuality isn't to say there is no sexuality. LaBruce's camera leers over both Lake and Melvin's bodies as objects to be fetishized. Lake is a traditionally beautiful object of youth, and Melvin is a traditionally attractive man of a certain age. To put them next to each other in such fetishistic manners challenges the current state of media of obsessing over youth as beauty.

Of course, LaBruce spends more time leering over Lake's body than over Melvin's body. Lake is frequently shirtless, and in shorts or underwear. But, when the time comes to leer over the older men, LaBruce doesn't shy away from it. In part because he wants us to see that they're all beautiful, and in part because he is hoping to lay young men himself as he gets older.

The style of Gerontophilia is that of the usual crop of indie films. The look is somewhat reminiscent of some cross between Winter's Bone, Short Term 12, and the music video for Dark Star, which is to say it is full of semi-lush but really cold imagery for the most part. There are slow motion shots, traditional montages, and some iconic LaBrucian images, such as Lake's bedroom has a gigantic wall image of Gandhi printed behind his bed, that's almost always in full frame. But, they all serve a much softer LaBruce feel than that of the VHS L.A. Zombie or even The Raspberry Reich which tended to feel overlit and under planned in a very punk manner. Even the acting and editing are softer and less overt than in his previous efforts. It's like LaBruce is trying to say that he can make a traditional movie that everybody will eat up because it's actually common.

But, the problem is that Gerontophilia is a cliche-ridden work that seems almost to loathe his fans. Desiree seems to be one of the people that LaBruce can't stand. She has her own older man fling with her boss at the bookstore, who has a bunch of feminist writers on his personal bookshelf that makes her all gooey with excitement. But, Desiree is all about revolutionary ideas and who and what is a revolutionary, at one point saying that Lake can't be a revolutionary because he's a man. If you replace female with queer in that list, then LaBruce seems almost to be pissing all over his fans who see something political in his overtly political movies. Kind of like he's been trying to piss off his fans for years, and by going through the montagey, cliche-ridden route and placing the words of his more ardent fans in the mouth of somebody he has utter contempt for, then he's testing to see if people actually notice what he's doing. He's provoking, and he's also provoking idolatry.

Gerontophilia is not what you expect from a Bruce LaBruce film. It's pretty, it's mannered, it's measures, it's typical, and it's mildly intelligent. It's not boring due to it's challenges. I quite enjoyed it despite the cliches and the usual plot developments.

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