The Raspberry Reich is the cum- and rhetoric-splattered new “agit-porn” spectacular from local queer punk cinema pioneer Bruce LaBruce. It follows the exploits of Gudrun (played by Susanne Sachsse) and her ragtag band of extreme left studmuffin terrorists as they bumble their way through a scheme to hold a wealthy industrialist’s son hostage. The son is involved with one of the boys in her gang, Clyde. Mayhem ensues.
Though Gudrun models herself on Gudrun Ensslin and Ulrike Meinhof, the female members of the real 1970s Red Army Faction (the Baader-Meinhof Gang), she is far more vocal about making sexual liberation the avant-garde of political revolution. Gudrun screams and screws to destroy heterosexual monogamy at every turn. In an early scene, her boyfriend Holger literally fucks her from the bedroom to the elevator on their way “into the streets.” Since this is gay porn, after all, she demands an allegiance to homo sex from her apparently straight male comrades.
It helps to know about the real RAF and radical politics in general to get a lot of the jokes in Raspberry Reich, though LaBruce’s satire is clearly conveyed by Gudrun’s stifling dogma and off-putting self-righteousness. Raspberry is intended as a critique of the fashionable interest in the ’70s terrorists current in Germany. They are now chic, and nowhere more so than in LaBruce’s own film, where the freedom fighters may be dumb as a bundle of sticks – Gudrun is seen window-shopping for guns and fellow radical Che makes out with them – but still immensely sexy and stylish.
In many ways, Raspberry Reich is a companion piece to Skin Gang, LaBruce’s first foray into porno/fiction hybrids, which was virtually unwatchable both for its sexualized racist violence and for the hardcore scenes eclipsing its feeble attempts at character and story (as a drag queen club hostess rightly proclaims in Raspberry Reich, “Nazi is so five minutes ago”).
Raspberry Reich is much super-ior to Skin Gang in terms of writing, music and visual style – it’s quite dynamic to watch, with great production design including some of the most oversized images of icon Che Guevara ever – and the combination of fucking and plot. The awkwardness comes more from trying to fit constant sloganeering and didactic manifestos into the action. While much of the film is quite lively and fast-paced – thanks largely to the editing and Sachsse’s obvious enthusiasm for her role – it can get bogged down by the lengthy tirades which are intended to bore the characters, and end up testing our patience in the process (even if you are a radical history buff). It doesn’t help that the actors often trip over their lines. But this can be forgiven if you remember that it’s playing with the conventions of porn.
LaBruce goes for the cartoonish rather than the complex to get his point across, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Expect witty one-liners (“Gudrun thinks that cornflakes are counter revolutionary”) and a great scene of guerilla street faggotry with real outraged and disgusted Germans over any in-depth investigation. And from miles of text scrolling across the screen, you can purchase your own revolutionary catchphrases on T-shirts from LaBruce’s website (Brucelabruce.com).
The film succeeds mainly as a trashy burlesque queering of a very macho brand of revolutionary posturing, but essentially it’s a bit of fun, frolic, fiery speechifying and fucking. LaBruce is not quite as transgressive or shocking as he thinks he is, but who else can fuse gay porn with underground cinema the way he can?