Review: The Raspberry Reich

Bruce LaBruce’s film is a necessary breath of astringent air.

The Raspberry Reich
Photo: Strand Releasing

The timing of writer-director Bruce LaBruce’s The Raspberry Reich couldn’t be any more perfect. Opening in New York on the same day as Walter Salles’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, err, The Motorcycle Diaries, a film that appeals to hipsters whose interest in Latin American cinema and politics is really only a cover for their interest in taking in the beauty of Gael García Bernal, Raspberry Reich daringly conflates queerness and revolution in ways that question the Warholification of outsider class struggles.

“Sexuality is a force of nature that can’t be contained by a mattress or a sheet,” yells out Frau Gudrun (Susanne Sachsse) to her boyfriend (Daniel Bätscher), fueling a fuck session that takes them from their German apartment to the elevator outside. Next door, a cohort performs fellatio on a handgun and assault rifle before a wall-sized picture of Che Guevara.

Raspberry Reich’s barebones plot concerns the attempts of a terrorist group commanded by Sachsse’s guerrilla horn dog to kidnap the son of a wealthy banker (read: capitalist pig). Because Gudrun believes that “masturbation is counter-revolutionary,” her frequent attempts to force her soldiers to have sex with each other and their kidnapped “Patty Hearst” become twisted assaults on all-talk-no-action identity and social politics.

From No Skin Off My Back, a queer remake of That Cold Day in the Park, to Hustler White (which starred Tony Ward as a Santa Monica callboy), La Bruce’s underrated campfests owe plenty to auteurs as disparate as Paul Morrissey, Robert Altman, and John Waters, debts that are all over his films’ cheeky dialogue, bad acting, flashing cue cards, and solid studies of community standards. Which is one reason why this film’s cute gay terrorists don’t exactly stake out territory as much as they stake each other out, frequently engaging in public sex.

LaBruce uses this sex to confront the illusion of freedom in society, but he also understands the distraction it poses within the terrorist ranks, and as such The Raspberry Reich works both as a counter-cultural assault on homosexist ideology and a comment on the way a revolution is often watered down and romanticized by the very media-obsessed bleeding hearts (like, say, Walter Salles) who are typically most interested in outsider politics.

In the spirit of Raoul Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life, a text from which LaBruce liberally borrows, this crude but funny comedy targets bourgeois constraints and uses graphic but tender gay sex as a form of subversion. This sounds insufferably intellectual, but LaBruce’s tongue is firmly planted in cheek. The film sometimes talks down to us (a trip to Burger King by the terrorists speaks for itself without one of the men pointing out the hypocrisy of the venture), but in a world where George W. Bush’s Baptist Reich continues to pose a threat to personal freedoms and world order, the film is a necessary breath of astringent air.

 Cast: Susanne Sachsse, Daniel Bätscher, Andreas Rupprecht, Dean Stathis, Gerrit, Joeffrey, Anton Z. Risan, Daniel Fettig  Director: Bruce LaBruce  Screenwriter: Bruce LaBruce  Distributor: Strand Releasing  Running Time: 90 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2004  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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