1996, NR, 80 min. Directed by Bruce La Bruce, Rick Castro. Starring Bruce La Bruce, Tony Ward, Ron Athey, Kevin P. Scott, Ivar Johnson, Kevin Kramer, Alex Austin, Vaginal Davis, Graham David Smith.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 15, 1996
It starts off with the image of a body floating face-down in a Jacuzzi while a voiceover begins the explanation of how the story's hero landed in such a sorry predicament. Shades of Sunset Blvd., except that Hustler White points its radar toward a different Hollywood strip: the contemporary hustlers' promenade of Santa Monica Boulevard. While the movie focuses on the extreme appetites that lucratively sustain the prostitution and pornography industries, Hustler White, with its graphic depictions of said peccadilloes, aspires to become something more than another piece of film pornography. And, here, the viewer should be informed that the fetishistic images include such things as amputee stump-humping, a razor-hungry masochist who coos “Cut my buttocks, dear boy,” a mortician kinkster (blackballed NEA artist Ron Athey) who mummifies his rent-boy in a swaddling of duct tape -- and many more detailed scenarios off the well-beaten path. Yet, filmmaker Bruce LaBruce seems to be trying for more of a streetwise, Andy Warhol-type aesthetic (á la Flesh), than any type of pornographic pay-off. The 16mm Hustler White is LaBruce's third feature film (his earlier titles include No Skin Off My Ass and Super 8 1/2) and this time he teams up with co-director Rick Castro, a Los Angeles photographer well-known for his photo essays of Santa Monica Boulevard hustlers. As a narrative feature, Hustler White is much more ambitious than LaBruce's previous efforts. As with his other projects, LaBruce again appears in a starring role. Here he plays an effete writer, Jürgen Anger, who comes to L.A. to pen his memoirs. He takes a quick shine to hustler Monti Ward, played by fashion model and former Madonna boy-toy Tony Ward (who has appeared in her “Justify My Love” and “Cherish” videos). In his acting debut, Ward commands the screen with style and swagger, made all the more noticeable by the film's bevy of “non-pro” talent. All throughout, references abound to other films such as Sunset Blvd. and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Jürgen Anger is constantly asked if he is related to Kenneth, a porn movie director's name is Roger V. Deem, etc. Hustler White layers its seamy walk on the wild side with a vivid portrait of a day in the life.