Bruce LaBruce explores another taboo, this time in early ’70s Quebec

Bruce LaBruce explores another taboo, this time in early ’70s Quebec

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Saint-Narcisse

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When: Sept. 17-24

Where: Vancity Theatre

Tickets & info:viff.org

Bruce LaBruce has been an enfant terrible in Canadian cinema since at least the early ‘90s and his first feature, No Skin Off My Ass. The filmmaker, who grew up in rural Saskatchewan, has devoted much of his work to blurring the lines between pornography and art house cinema.

Now 57, LaBruce hasn’t lost his desire to expose and explore taboos, as in his latest, Saint-Narcisse, which takes on the subjects of sexual abuse in the church and incest between twins, or “twincest.”

We talked to LaBruce about funding, seventies Quebec cinema, and movies about twins.

Q: Two of your films, 2013’s Gerontophilia and now Saint-Narcisse, have received backing from Telefilm Quebec. Back in your early days, did you ever foresee a time when you’d receive funding for your movies from the federal government?

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A: It’s interesting. I couldn’t get arrested in English-speaking Canada. I couldn’t get my films supported by Telefilm in Toronto. I’m known as an underground guerrilla filmmaker, I’ve made porn movies. So I wanted to make some more mainstream independent type films. I was turned down for three different projects. So I finally found a Quebec producer and I went to Quebec and made Gerontophilia. Even though it had a taboo subject of intergenerational love it wasn’t that explicit. It was a big hit in France. So I applied again with the same producer, Nicolas Comeau, and I got support again by Quebec Telefilm. I think they’re a little more adventurous there. But in meetings, I still have to devote the first 10 or 15 minutes to a speech where I promise that it’s not going to be a porn movie.

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Q: Why did you decide to set Saint-Narcisse in the early ‘70s?

A: I have a great cinematographer, Michel La Veaux, and we really wanted to make it a homage to ‘70s Quebecois cinema. In particular I was referencing Paul Almond, a great Quebecois filmmaker who was married to Geneviève Bujold. They made a trilogy of films together, Isabel, The Act of the Heart, and Journey. When I was a kid, I saw The Act of the Heart, which was made in 1970. In the film, Donald Sutherland plays a priest and he has sex with a girl played by Bujold on the altar of the church, and then she goes into the park and pours gasoline on herself and sets herself on fire. And that’s the end of the movie. I saw this when I was 12 or 14 — on CBC — and it had an enormous impact on me.

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Q: Félix-Antoine Duval plays twins in the movie. How did you approach that?

A: We tried to stay away from CGI for the twin effects. Which are quite beautifully done, if I do say so myself. We only used eight or nine CGI face replacement shots. It’s all split-screen and body doubles, the old-school way of doing it.

Q: Did you watch or rewatch any movies about twins?

A: I rewatched Dead Ringers to see how he (director David Cronenberg) did the twin effects. He was quite ahead of his time. The other twin movie I referenced was Brian DePalma’s Sisters. A Canadian actor, Margot Kidder, plays one of the conjoined twins. And DePalma also made Obsession, which is also an incest movie, and stars Geneviève Bujold. There are a lot of connections there. That’s how I tend to make movies. I’m a super cinephile. I just take thoughts and characters and actors and scenes and dialogue from different movies and try to mash them together in my own signature style and with my thematic concerns. But they’re usually highly referential.

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