10/10: Bruce LaBruce
The director of L.A. Zombie and the upcoming The Misandrists discusses his ten favorite films from the last ten years.
-in chronological order-
1. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, 2008) Like my other favorite Claire Denis films (I Can’t Sleep, Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day), 35 Shots of Rum doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about the usual conventions of storytelling or character development or exposition or dramatic arcs or stakes or any of that crap that props up the tyranny of mainstream narrative cinema. It’s more about dancing, meditation, and family romance. Denis dispenses with the tired mechanics of by-the-numbers cinema and just leaves in all the gold, which has the added advantage of making everything so wonderfully ambiguous.
2. Trash Humpers (Harmony Korine, 2009) I could have chosen Korine’s Spring Breakers, his breakout, quasi-mainstream-yet-still-practically-experimental film, but I like this more obscure, underground, definitely experimental, shot-with-a-VHS-camera film of his even better. The crazy thing is, he actually makes an incoherent, grotesque tale of characters wearing old people masks emotionally affecting. I appreciated it even more after I directed an episode of a documentary Arte TV series featuring Gaspar Noé visiting Harmony in Nashville. We met all the crazy characters that appear in Trash Humpers in the same locations where they were shot, which was mostly their own homes. P.S. — he didn’t make anything up!
3. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009) I could have chosen the completely different — but not all that unsimilar, if you think about it — Dogtooth, which came out the same year, but I like Fish Tank a little bit better, partly because of the dancing scenes to Bobby Womack’s cover of “California Dreamin’” (though I prefer José Feliciano’s cover) and Nas. Oh, and the hot body of Michael Fassbender doesn’t hurt, either, even though he plays a creep who surreptitiously sleeps with his girlfriend’s 15-year-old daughter while concealing from them both the fact that he already has a wife and kid somewhere else.
4. The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar, 2011) Rape (three, actually), bondage, fratricide, extreme fetish, incest, voyeurism, forced sexual reassignment, plastic surgery: only Almodovar could make it all seem so sexy, and make us totally emotionally invested in the characters to boot.
5. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013) Okay, this movie reminded me a little bit of my own movie, L.A. Zombie, in which an oft-naked alien male zombie trolls Los Angeles looking for dead bodies to literally fuck back to life. Except in this one, an oft-naked female alien zombie (Scarlett Johansson) trolls the Scottish Highlands looking for unsuspecting men to lure into a black underwater space-hell and fuck them to death, more or less. I love that the scenes in which the female drives around and picks up men were shot using hidden cameras as she spoke to real, unsuspecting people. But I can’t believe it cost $13.3 million to make. Mine cost $100,000. (Incidentally, I could have chosen The Neon Demon, which is also a visually stunning, kinky head-scratcher, but I like this one a bit better.)
6. Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler, 2013) Back on Fear of a Black Planet Earth, Ryan Coogler’s first feature is the true story of a young black man who was detained in a minor incident by police at the Fruitvale Bart station in Oakland and subsequently shot in the back by one of the officers. Certainly one of the most relevant American films of the last ten years, it’s also raw and emotional and features an incredibly sexy and sorrowful performance by soon-to-be-breakout-star Michael B. Jordan.
7. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014) I love that this Australian horror film is directed by a woman, because movies about hysterical, damaged women who may or may not just be imagining the horrible, monstrous things that are happening to them (Polanski’s Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby, Andrzej Żuławski Possession, Aronofsky’s Black Swan and mother!) are usually directed by crazy, pervy men, making them somewhat creepy (but still genius, except maybe for Aronofsky).
8. Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014) I could have chosen Zvyagintsev’s equally excellent Loveless, but it’s Leviathan — a lugubrious drama about a man fighting against greed, bureaucracy, and moral decay in a small fishing town — that really nails the corruption of the Russian state and the Orthodox Church. The trials of its protagonist, Nikolai, make Job and Jonah, both referenced therein, seem like amateurs. Bleak and blistering, the film seethes with repressed rage. How the dissident Zvyagintsev manages to have his films submitted by Russia for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar category instead of getting kicked out of the country or thrown out a window remains a mystery.
9. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) Okay, one of the best feminist films ever made was directed by a man. Deal with it. The one-armed Furiosa, played by an even-fiercer-than-usual Charlize Theron, and the even-fiercer lesbian separatist Vuvalini (sounds like Vulvalini) make the ladies in Wonder Woman look positively heteronormative.
10. Tangerine (Sean Baker, 2015) Hands down the best queer film of the past ten years. Forget that it was made with iPhones (although that’s so cool), the story of two transladies of the evening on a tear one night in L.A. is wildly authentic, gorgeously shot, and the best movie about friendship since Jerry Schatzberg’s Scarecrow.
Bruce LaBruce’s The Misandrists opens May 25 in New York and June 1 in Los Angeles. More info can be found here.
10/10 is an ongoing series in which we ask cinephiles to name their ten favorite films from the last ten years (currently, between 2008 and 2018).