JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Otto: Or Up With Dead People (Director/Writer: Bruce La Bruce) - April 9, 2008
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Otto: Or Up With Dead People

4.5 4.5
95 min.

Reviewed at the 22nd London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
It won't kill you to go

Bruce La Bruce’s latest offering is a deadly affair of heavily politicized metaphors that overflows with imagination, angst and a smattering of good old fashioned porn.

Meet Otto (stoically played—and with an admirable hobble—by newcomer Jey Crisfar whose deep voice and arousing payoff, “let-me-check-everywhere-for-more-blood” scene) resonates strongly with Dietmar Prinz as Beethoven’s Nephew (cross-reference below), who rises from the dead as a gay zombie (a deeply-layered image for all time) in search of meat (eschewing his vegetarian past): at first, bunnies (hello there Monty Python), birds and chicken will do, but soon his tastes broaden into two-legged creatures with a penchant to swish.

A one-night stand doesn’t realize what he’s asking for when he invites Otto up to his flat for a quickie. (Perhaps not so coincidentally, they meet outside “Flesh” a ghoulish nightclub whose name is the same of the first in the Paul Morrissey/Andy Warhol late 60’s trilogy Flesh, Trash and Heat—a fitting link whether intended or not—cross-reference below.) Butt naked in seconds, the horny young man is able to abide Otto’s decaying stench, but is totally unprepared when the flesh seeker takes the term “eat me” to a totally different level. The squeamish may not care for the copious amounts of blood and guts that spatter the sheets and walls, killing the fornicator during the Draculian intercourse, but fear not: seconds after cuming and dying in the throes of lust, the momentarily satiated stud is reborn, ready to begin his quest for nubile young men and lure them out of their clothes and onto his fangs and prong.

Conveniently for the storytelling (as well as the spectacular cinematography—James Carman, and editing—Jörn Hartmann and La Bruce: especially when they split the screen between colourful living beings and black-and-white zombies—all the better to keep the characters, er, straight), there’s a film-within-the-film. The deliciously named Medea Yarn (Katharina Klewinghaus brings delightful savvy and joie de vivre to the campy role) and her piano-motif announced (Wagner would be proud) undead silent screen partner, Hella Bent (Susanne Sachse), are preparing a diatribe against industrial pollution, corporate greed and sanctioned killing (much disturbing in its reality, archival footage of bombs dropping and a monk torching himself add chilling truth to the fantastical fiction).

Soon after arriving in Berlin, Otto conquers Medea’s casting couch. His, apparent, not-quite-alive insistence during the audition (replying “unliving, unemployed, homeless” to her basic demographic questions forges a strong link between the world’s abandoned and downtrodden whether dead or alive—brilliant touch) and rotting flesh stench land him a lead role. Let the filming begin! (Documentary style: follow Otto all over town with a camera and no one will give him a second glance, for anything goes in the movies; real life disabilities have to be explained or scorned as befits the prejudice of the viewer.)

From there, (interspersed with a subplot of Otto’s sad past—a butcher father; suddenly being dumped by a boyfriend who admits “I’ve never been good with sick people.” gradually reassembling in his troubled mind) the film loses some of its pace. Medea pontificates one scene too many (where Otto is crowned the Prince of Garbage) but things soon prick up as the stage is set for the grand finale: a zombie orgy (the leather crowd—and their admirers—can only hope that the DVD release will contain every inch of the deleted scenes).

Straight, gay or uncertain, this film deserves notice. If the blood, gore and blow jobs can be stomached, La Bruce has skillfully interwoven much to contemplate, not least of which is how dead or dying so much of modern life has become. JWR

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