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Review: Otto; or, Up with Dead People

They don’t come more internally conflicted than Bruce LaBruce’s Otto; or, Up with Dead People

Otto; or, Up with Dead People
Photo: Strand Releasing

They don’t come more internally conflicted than Bruce LaBruce’s Otto; or, Up with Dead People (or, Dead People Get It Up). It seems the gay, Canadian provocateur nec plus ultra, having spent much of his career in film and still photography unapologetically reveling in rough trade, has finally pinned his bloody, queer heart on his sleeve. And he doesn’t appear to know exactly why. Otto is garlanded with as much sex, blood, leftist dogma and real-life porn stars (the Teutonically ravishing Marcel Schlutt, in fine fettle) as you’d expect from the filmmaker whose last movie, The Raspberry Reich, spawned the immortal catchphrase “the revolution is my boyfriend.” But despite the fact that the main character is a twink zombie who eats roadkill and cock in about equal measure, LaBruce’s empathetic twist is that gay sex does not in itself imply a political statement, at least not so far as Otto is concerned. Quite simply, Otto’s catatonic state is the inevitable byproduct of an apparently puppy-cute case of young love ending prematurely. When Otto’s droopy-eyed, olive-skinned boy runs out on him in his hour of need, Otto takes the “can’t go on living” cliché to its natural end. That said, zombiedom does stand in as a metaphor for dormant political activism for Medea Yarn, a militant, morose lesbian filmmaker. Yarn’s film within a film positions gay zombies as the vital army of underground sentiment, a savage but humanistic counterpoint to (North American) mankind’s disposable existence. Somewhere between these two positions—psychological isolation and civic disruption—is LaBruce’s own skeptical take, in which scenes of gay zombie orgies are bluntly juxtaposed with images of meat being cut from the bone. (Thematically, it’s somewhere between the bathhouse nightmare sequence of Another Gay Sequel and the anti-consumerism Bible that is Dawn of the Dead.) Though Otto, like any horny fag diving headfirst into a sea of men, tackles more than it can handle, everyone in the movie gets theirs. Otto momentarily rejoins the land of the living, Yarn (after years of filmmaking) finally gets to bark “that’s a wrap,” and her all-male cast gets to wallow in each other’s juices. For a movie with this many ideological loose ends, Otto comes up with a convincingly sweet resolution.

Cast: Jey Crisfar, Katharina Klewinghaus, Susanne Sachße, Marcel Schlutt, Guido Sommer, Christophe Chemin, Gio Black Peter Director: Bruce LaBruce Screenwriter: Bruce LaBruce Distributor: Strand Releasing Running Time: 95 min Rating: NR Year: 2008 Buy: Video

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