Gerontophilia was my first time watching a Bruce LaBruce’s movie with no explicit sex. Despite being his most conventional work of art, it is the one that more effectively questioned me and moved me to self refection. After all, I am a conventional guy.
Before discussing Gerontophilia, we must devote a few words to its director, the Canadian Bruce LaBruce. We may be wrong, but based on the analytics we have, our readers may not know who he is.
Actually, I do not know much about him. As this blogger abandoned the alternative culture world decades ago, the Canadian artist is rather a sweet memory than a nowadays icon.
When I close my eyes and think of Bruce LaBruce, it is not Gerontophilia the first thing to come to my mind. Instead, I see long lines to enter to the Cine Cosmos in Buenos Aires, back in the 90s. I see International Film Festivals, and my golden years for sex and drugs experimentation, personal self-discovery quests, and cultural and political adventures.
Until recently, all the Bruce LaBruce I knew was the punk alternate queer director of No Skin Off My Ass, Super 8 1/2, an Hustler White, all movies I loved. Then, in 2010, I watch L.A. Zombie and did not really enjoyed it, as I experienced it as a successful piece of art but a pornographic failure.
Fortunately, Bruce had more successful tries to pornography. My favorite one is a clip co-produced with Cockyboys I have written about before. More recently, he filmed a clip for men.com inspired in the Tom of Finland universe.
I encourage you to research more this Queer artist, there is plenty of good stuff available online. However, this article is not about Bruce but about Gerontophilia.
Lake, the young protagonist, reminds me of many urban teen agers. I have met him in cities like Buenos Aires, Paris, and New York, although he lives in Toronto, where I have never been. He lives with his single mother, Marie; has a feminist girlfriend, Desiree; reads Naomi Klein, and goes around sketching old people drawings.
Lake is working as a lifeguard at a swimming pool, when he has a realization while practicing mouth-to-mouth respiration to an older gentleman. Lake had a full erection in front of all the swimming pool goers, and ran away in shame.
Although he seems to be the adult at home, his mother helps him to find another job. She had been working at a bar and made acquainted to one of her clients who worked for an assisted living facility. Through him, Lake becomes a nurse assistant, supporting the handling of the old men and women living in the establishment.
That is how he meets Melvin. He is an old man in his 80s. They start a friendship that quickly turns into romance. After a few conflicts with the clinic, Lake enrolled Desiree and illegally takes Melvin out of the establishment.
Of course, Desiree had to survive the shock. Despite being a self proclaimed revolutionary feminist, she cannot hide the initial disgust that her boyfriend’s fetish triggers on her. Nevertheless, her disgust easily turns into admiration, empathy, and solidarity in what is perhaps the most adorable metamorphosis in the whole movie.
Lake and Melvin start a romantic road trip. The old man wanted to see the Pacific Ocean one last time, and Lake was into making it happen. Sadly, the adventure finds a tragic ending when our young hero realizes he is declaring his love to a dead body, as Melvin passed just moments after making love, almost in his arms.
The movie closes with Marie hooking up with Melvin’s son after the funeral service, Desiree celebrating her new understanding of who her ex boyfriend is, and Lake moving on to get ready for his next geronto adventure.
It is not a gay movie, stupid
I apologize, but I had to spit that out of my chest. I am tired of having this conversation with friends, exhausted of being disappointed at how desperately people continues to reduce reality to make it fit in their preconceptions. Gerontophilia is not a gay movie, nowadays more than ever before.
Perhaps in the past the boundaries between queer and gay were not so clear. I doubt it. The core difference between both political views, though, has always been the same: the presence or absence of a questioning mindset.
Clearly, Gerontophilia shines in Queer Heaven, far away from gay conformism. Not only the movie imagery resides light years away from binary simplifications. Besides, it renders a loud statement against gay culture’s Ageism, and Misogyny.
Probably my favorite character, Desiree delivers the most lucid and insightful lines. After the crisis in her relationship with Lake, she starts her own quest for self discovering. You can see in the clip one of my favorite dialogues, towards the end. Immediately after the words you can see in the clip, she continues: “You are fighting against nature. Do you see how radical that is?… if you were a girl, you would be in my list.”
Of course, she is not talking about nature, but about the overwhelming weight of mainstream cultural conditionings. Gerontophilia is not a gay movie. It rather is Anti Gay, just as it is Anti Straight and Anti Conventional.
Gerontophilia is about Saints and Revolutionaries
Since the very beginning of the movie, Lake and Desiree quarrel about being saints or revolutionaries. Remarkably, despite how smart they are, our heroes do not see that often we cannot help but be both.
Desiree is as revolutionary as an urban teen intellectual can be. She intentionally builds herself as such, raising name by name her powerful list of iconic revolutionary women. But she is also a saint, when she sacrifices her feelings and overcomes her disgust to support Lake.
Lake is also a revolutionary. Perhaps he is not as intellectual as Desiree is, he is rather a man of action. He is willing to go against the world when breaking all clinic rules to support Melvin, first out of human empathy before his feelings evolved into love.
He is also a saint, although not for Desiree’s reasons. Lake rightly corrects her when she calls him a saint. He was not sacrificing anything, he was just following his instincts. She was seeing sanctity when he was just acting out of lust.
It is rather towards the end of the movie when we fully understand Lake’s sanctity. When he notices that Melvin is dead next to him, and has all that time waiting for the ambulance next to his lover’s corpse, and going through the experience of his lover funeral services. Lake surely realizes that this loss he has just suffered, is going to be a frequent occurrence for the rest of his life, as long as he continues following his fetish.
It is when Lake comprehends up to what point deep suffering and loss are intertwined into his fetish and still decides to embrace it, that we fully understand the heights of his sanctity.
It is about disgust
Another theme that runs across the movie is Disgust. Obviously, the disgust that picturing an older human being having sexual intercourse with a teen ager causes, but not just that disgust.
There is disgust in the swimming pool goers’ reaction at Lake’s arousal, and in all witnesses of Luke and Melvin’s relationship. But there is also disgust when Lake surprises his mother playing with her boss in the office, there is disgust in Desiree when her boss tries to seduce her, and in Lake when he sees how the other male nurse assistant is taking advantage of the interns.
Finally, it is Lake’s disgust at the system’s reaction what calls him to revolutionary action. When he notices the others talking at his back, when he finds Melvin drugged out and tied.
Ultimately for someone like me, who is stepping into his late 50s and has always liked very young men, it is also about my own disgust. Because it does not matter how open minded and accepting I was, I used to feel a visceral disgust at the picture of a young man having sex with an elder, and at older men making a move on me.
Gerontophilia questions society, but what I like the most is how hard it questions me.
Gerontophilia is not about answers
Desiree last line in the dialogue I referenced above are: “The fucked up part is that what we are makes that we cannot be together. You know that, right?” To what Lake responds: “I do not know what I am”.
Gerontophiia is not about giving us answers. It is just about telling a simple story, in a simple way, and leaving us with a lot of complicated questions.
Of course there is the question about what we are, but there is also the question about what we feel. Before being a movie, gerontophilia was just a fetish, and festishes are supposed to be about sex. So what is it that Lake feels, is it love or is it lust?
And what about Melvin? What does he feel? Is he aware of all the hopes and dreams Lake may be projecting on him? How does he feel when Lake censors him for not giving him his exclusive attention?
Lake seems to find his answer in the saddest moment of the movie, when he declares his love to Melvin’s still warm corpse. But what we cannot be sure of, as this is his first experience, is what lessons an 18 years old boy will learn. We know he will continue looking for the elderly. We do not know whether he will just follow his lust or remain open to fall in love again.
Beyond how cumbersome and pretentious my interpretation may be, Gerontophilia is an entertaining romantic comedy to watch. You can just laugh and cry following Lake’s adventures and misadventures.
But if you have some extra time in quarantine time, it is a warm reflection about the truly complicated nature of hedonism, about the intricate relationship between suffering and joy.
Hasta la próxima pinga, amig@s!