Monday, 19 September 2016


CRUISING, d. William Friedkin (1980)

Cruising presents a very selective view of the New York gay community, specifically the highly promiscuous underground scene, where sweaty men in cut off police uniforms sniff amyl nitrate soaked rags and fist each other. It’s a world of sex and submission and a serial killer* on the loose, a man with mirror shades, a biker cap and a steak knife. It’s a controversial and extreme portrait, and there was a serious attempt to derail the film during production, with people protesting on location and using mirrors to disrupt filming. The ending, in which it is inferred that immersion in the gay scene leads to psychosis, is fudged just enough not to be out and out defamatory, but remains offensive.

Investigating the case is a permed and pumped up Al Pacino, deep undercover and gradually losing his mind and conventional sexuality. Pacino is normally a fine actor, but he looks ill at ease and distracted, seemingly more concerned with leaning against railings and climbing onto benches to conceal his lack of height than conveying the slow unravelling of his character.

Rumours abound that the films meaning was compromised by extensive cuts (including the removal of hardcore pornography) but this misses the point. Cruising is an out and out exploitation film, and its big budget and the reputation of its director and star can’t make it honest or respectable. It’s a dirty film, not because of what it depicts, but because of the intentions behind it.   

* Or two, or three... 

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