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Canadian director Bruce LaBruce’s controversial gay porn horror film LA Zombie, which stars a French porn star as a schizophrenic homeless man who believes he is a cannibalistic ghoul,” and depicts homosexual sex, full-frontal male nudity, and necrophilia, was withdrawn from the Melbourne International Film Festival in July after it failed to get a pass from the Australian Film Classification Board.

The film still had a public screening at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, but six weeks later the home of MUFF artistic director Richard Wolstencroft was raided Friday by state police searching for a copy of LaBruce’s movie. No film was found and no charges were filed.

Wolstencroft reportedly told Australia’s ABC Online News that he had destroyed the only copy in his possession, and blamed the local political climate for the sudden intrusion by police

LaBruce also told the Star he also believes LA Zombie is being singled out by conservative pro-censorship forces in Victoria, where the Labour Party faces a difficult election Nov. 27.

LA Zombie was screened earlier this year at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Locarno International Film Festival in Italy, and in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

Let’s get a few things out of the way. L.A. Zombie is a hardcore gay porn film. There are numerous scenes of men having graphic sex shot in the manner of pornography, not art film erotica. The film also continues Bruce LaBruce’s longstanding love affair with genre, with plenty of low-tech, half-eaten corpses, lots of spurting blood and a most unusually-shaped zombie penis that dominates the film’s psycho-sexual world. Fair warning?

But L.A. Zombie is very much an art film, too. In fact, it is one of the most poignant films about dashed expectations and the ennui of poverty I can recall by a Canadian filmmaker. Its tone in some ways recalls LaBruce’s revelatory first film, No Skin Off My Ass, but trades in LaBruce’s hairdresser persona for a more fractured narrative gaze, a perspective borne from the city itself and reminiscent of Jacques Rivette’s Paris nous appartient. This sets L.A. Zombie far apart from LaBruce’s last ten years of hardcore work, which has tended to strike a satirical, confrontational tone, perhaps most notably in his agitprop phenomenon The Raspberry Reich.

Aesthetically, L.A. Zombie is a most unusual hybrid. Although LaBruce has been working in digital video since starting to make more sexually explicit work, he had yet to achieve the same cinematographic impact of the stunning black-and-white photography of _ Super 8½_ or the seventies underground aesthetic of Hustler White. L.A. Zombie changes that. LaBruce uses the digital medium to stretch the Los Angeles landscape, using its endless sunsets and radioactive, yellow glow to create an uneasy tone of penniless decadence. Long shots are held for maximum imaginative power and the film plays out in near silence. In many respects, L.A. Zombie feels like an update of and tribute to Joe Gage’s revolutionary late-seventies gay porn trilogy, which, in my mind, is among the finest set of films made in any genre. –

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