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Movie Review

Upbeat 'Hustler' Walks on L.A.'s Wild Side

September 20, 1996|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With "Hustler White," the notorious underground gay actor-filmmaker Bruce LaBruce has hardly gone mainstream, but this time teeters on the brink of pornography rather than slipping over into it. Graduating from Super 8, LaBruce has had enough money to shoot "Hustler White" like a regular movie--in color yet--but a bigger budget hasn't corrupted him, so to speak. He's just as outrageous and hilarious as ever.

Take, for example, the film's title: If the late, highly prestigious Krzysztof Kieslowski can make a "Blue," "White" and "Red" trilogy, inspired by the French flag, why not LaBruce, promising two more installments? Any filmmaker who's as comically blunt--although occasionally tender--about sex as LaBruce is has got to be concerned with liberty and fraternity and maybe even equality.

LaBruce spins the slightest of romantic comedies as he casts himself as a pretentious, bitchy German writer Jurgen Anger, who's come to Hollywood to research the gay scene. He spots a spectacularly well-built hustler, Montgomery Ward (model-actor Tony Ward), while cruising Santa Monica Boulevard. It's lust at first sight, and Jurgen's pursuit of Monti becomes a pretext for LaBruce and his co-writer-director Rick Castro, noted photographer and video maker, to follow Monti through some of Los Angeles' kinkier scenes, featuring fearless performance artist Ron Athey, other local counterculture celebrities and several actual porn stars.

Much of what is intimated rather than actually depicted defies description in a family newspaper, but it is not hard-core. "Hustler White" is a delirious satirical fantasy. LaBruce and Castro have fun with the absurdities of bizarre sex and quote scenes from old movies--e.g., the opening sequence of "Sunset Blvd." and the beach sequence from "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"--only to give them an upbeat twist. "Hustler White" is ultimately upbeat itself, but even so it's strictly for open-minded adult audiences.

* Unrated. Times guidelines: The film is strictly for adults, with much kinky, suggestive sex scenes, strong language, some frontal nudity.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

'Hustler White'

Tony Ward: Montgomery "Monti" Ward

Bruce LaBruce: Jurgen Anger

Ron Athey: Seymour Kasabian

Glen Meadmore: Stew Blake

A Strand Releasing presentation. Co-writers/directors Bruce LaBruce & Rick Castro. Producers Jurgen Bruning & LaBruce. Executive producers Marcus Hu, Jon Garrens, Dangerous to Know and Swell. Cinematographer James Carman. Editor Rider Siphron. Art director/prop master Steve Hall. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

* Exclusively at the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Los Angeles, (213) 848-3500.

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