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Spotlight: Bruce LaBruce’s Masterpiece ‘Flea Pit’

Spotlight: Bruce LaBruce’s Masterpiece ‘Flea Pit’

It’s official! The 2019 XBIZ Gay Movie of the Year is CockyBoys’ “Flea Pit,” a subversively hilarious, deeply felt collection of four thematically connected erotic short films, shot on location in Madrid and Berlin by indie auteur Bruce LaBruce with an A-list cast toplined by 2019 XBIZ Gay Performer of the Year Francois Sagat.

In addition to Sagat, the cast includes Calvin Banks, Dato Foland, Sean Ford, Levi Karter, 2018 XBIZ Gay Performer of the Year Colby Keller, Allen King and Arad Winwin.

Gay pornography may be the last bastion of true, queer radicalism, because we’ve now become just completely homogenized.

LaBruce, the director of such iconoclastic, provocative indie films as “No Skin Off My Ass” (1993), “Super 8 ½” (1994), “Hustler White” (1996), “The Raspberry Reich” (2004) and 2010’s “L.A. Zombie,” starring Sagat — has long dipped in-and-out of gay adult. But it wasn’t until his collaboration with CockyBoys that he truly lent his anarchic spirit to adult filmmaking.

CockyBoys principal Jake Jaxson, a prolific director himself, recalls the two filmmakers initially crossed paths at a retrospective of LaBruce’s oeuvre at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, via erotic A-lister Dean Monroe, who had just shot “Answered Prayers” for CockyBoys and had also, by coincidence, appeared in “Raspberry Reich.” About a year later, LaBruce tracked down Tayte Hanson, a marquee performer for CockyBoys, to discuss a possible collaboration and the filmmakers were reintroduced.

“The first thing he pitched to me was a possible follow-up to ‘Hustler White’ and the ideas kept getting crazier and weirder and more outrageous,” Jaxson told XBIZ.

However, the performer LaBruce had eyed for the main role — the original film turned its handsome leading man, Tony Ward, into a cult icon — was unavailable and LaBruce decided to move on.

“It was there for just a second and then it was gone,” Jaxson says, noting the parallels with adult filmmaking. “You have to jump at things when you have the chance. Sometimes the opportunity doesn’t last very long.”

He assured LaBruce the door would stay open to him and before long a script arrived for “Diablo in Madrid,” which eventually became one of the four films that comprise “Flea Pit.” The story — about a devil provoking the mourners in a cemetery and “an epic battle” with an angel — immediately piqued Jaxson’s interest. (“Guaranteed to offend!” promises the film’s DVD insert.)

“Our logo is a little devil with horns and a halo,” Jaxson says. “In an odd way, I felt like the universe brought us this project. I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

The other films in the quartet include “Uber Menschen,” led by Banks and Keller. Banks, slim and adorable with a sizable cock and dark blond ringlets, is a terrific match for hunky, bearded Keller, a skilled actor who brings seemingly genuine passion and hunger to his sexual performances. Fully half of the running time of their scene together is taken up with a tour of Madrid in an Uber as the men develop a connection. Keller has the acting chops to make it work. They eventually make love at night, in public, illuminated by the headlights of Banks’ car. It’s a passionate, cum-soaked bout of lovemaking by two terrific performers.

Another short is “Purple Army Faction,” fantastically hot sex, and funny as fuck. LaBruce employs subtitles, attempts at subliminal messaging and slogans (“Go Gay or Go Home!”), which are a scream. Although the Purple Army Faction members identify Sagat as heterosexual, the Gallic stud’s hidden talents for man-on-man fucking are quickly brought to the surface. Winwin, as the group’s alpha-leader, has his way with Sagat first. Both men are musclebound and thickly hung and they fuck with furious passion; Sagat likes a topman who can keep up with him and urge him on and Winwin’s thick cumshot is well earned.

Dreamily handsome Foland, another well-muscled slab of beef, also contributes a gusher of a climax that seems to impress Sagat. Karter has never been better; he gets fucked against the Berlin Wall — yes, really — and then later sucks cock as if it’s the only thing keeping him alive. Sagat has to prove himself to the group by banging Karter. He’s smooth and confident as Karter writhes beneath him and Sagat coats the young stud’s back with semen.

“Flea Pit,” the final film in the omnibus that gives the DVD its name, is a mesmerizing throwback to porn’s early days in its style and setting as an orgy erupts among the audience members inside a rundown theatre. Many of the cast reappear, alongside a few additional participants (including a woman). They exchange teasing, furtive glances; the slow-building anticipation is palpable as the audience members inch closer and closer to touching each other, then take out their cocks, and other body parts, and stroke, then begin to kiss, and more. A group of the men, led by Karter and Winwin, fuck in front of the screen as the movie continually plays across their nude bodies and then jerk off, one-by-one. Some of the audience members have sex; some do not (including filmmaker RJ Sebastian, known to CockyBoys fans as a creative force behind the scenes, and a real dreamboat). The lighting, editing and other tech elements work together to build and maintain erotic suspense.

LaBruce, notes Jaxson, “thinks cinematically. He’s a filmmaker; he thinks big. He brought a lot to the table,” Jaxson notes. “A lot of people want to work with him and he brought a great crew together. But these things are not inexpensive to make. It’s triple what we would normally spend on a scene.”

Jaxson emphasizes that “Flea Pit” was not about simply plugging in a notable director to shoot standard porn scenes. “He’s bringing in his view of the world,” Jaxson says. “I’ve always loved his point of view in terms of radicalism. He grew up in a completely different time, a radical time. You can see those elements in his filmmaking. He comes to filmmaking, and pornography, with a clear sense of revolution — queer revolution. Gay pornography may be the last bastion of true, queer radicalism because we’ve now become just completely homogenized.”

Despite the expense and unique challenges, Jaxson describes “a lot of benefit” to making the films, including a specific point-of-view as well as a sterling opportunity for his stable of performers. A non-explicit version — currently titled “It’s Not the Pornographer Who Is Perverse” — was submitted to several international film festivals. “It’s not provocative at all,” Jaxson laughs.

Given the erotic nature of so much of his work, Jaxson expressed surprise that LaBruce hadn’t made more explicit erotica.

“I asked him about that,” Jaxson said. “He said, ‘Most people in the porn industry don’t like me. They all think that I’m too good for it or that I’m trying to make something that’s not porn.’ And I said, ‘Well, then no one likes me, either.’ I can’t really speak for him, but I think he feels like this is [about] getting back to resistance.”