When it first came out 27 years ago, William Friedkin's Cruising broke ground. It was the first major-studio crime drama set primarily in a gay male milieu. Al Pacino plays an undercover cop investigating the murders of a string of gay men with the common thread that they had cruised for sex either in public parks or in gay S&M clubs — although not in airport restrooms. Some of the murders are shown in grisly detail, but the story focuses more on Pacino's disorientation as he dives more deeply into his undercover identity, especially on his infrequent visits back to his real-life girlfriend. When Cruising was released, gay men picketed theatres where it screened, protesting what they viewed as the implicit suggestion that the leather/S&M scene is representative of the larger gay community, not to mention linking "serial killer" with "homosexuality" as tightly as "Saddam" and "9/11." Looking at the controversy now, when it seems that everyone except Larry Craig sees the diversity of gay experience, it seems almost quaint.
The film is in a limited theatrical re-release this month, with a brand-new digitally restored print, and will be released on a "special edition" DVD on September 18th. You can pre-order it from Amazon and other outlets.
Cruising, dir. William Friedkin, 1980 USA/West Germany, 102 min.
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