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February 24, 1980 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-02-24

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The Michigan Daily-Sunday, February 24, 1980-PageS


Sd And New reams
s a U
MA RCliisf MiiOAN
S C100 lYEE


Tickets/$6 in advance
For-more information/ 763-2071

'Cruising' is rigid thriller
NOTETHE Subtle Contrast Dept.: In William Friedkin's controversial film (Al Pacino) has food clean fun with his girlfriend Nancy (Karen Allen), and
Cruising, scenes dealing with the hetersexuil, "normal" world are bathed in by night poses as a gay leather freak in an attempt to bait and capture a
sunlight, while sequences depicting New York City's gay community are psychopathic killer of N.Y.C. homosexuals.
shot to look like some sort of modern Sodom. Above, policeman Steve Burns


ilam Fredkin's'

William Friedkin's Curising is prob-
ably the most thoroughly asexual
movie dealing with sexuality ever
made. It's most disturbing not as a
Hollywood homophobic statement, but
*as an indication of how abnormally
chilly the tastes of director William
Friedkin (The French Connection, The
Exorcist) have become. The movie
examines the N.Y.C. S & M leather
scene (which an obviously tacked-on
written prologue defensively labels as
being "far from the mainstream of gay
life") and about a half-dozen
horrifically gory murders with the sort
of attitude that the computer HAL of
2001 might have had-with a totally'
frigid, vaguely destructive air of
grimly satisfied voyeurism.
Cruising would be offensive and
harmful enough if it were a simple
heterosexual swipe at homosexuality,
but what makes it an even more uneasy
experience is the fact that Friedkin
obviously doesn't care about anyone.
There's an extremely sinister edge to
his dark vision; watching the film, the
viewer is likely to learn far more
upsetting things about the director's
mentality than about the movie s
fictional killer.
THE STORYLINE is based very
vaguely on several actual homocide
cases stretching over seventeen years.
Al Pacino plays Steve Burns, a New
York City police officer who is asked by
Capt. Edelson (Paul Sorvino) to.
volunteer for a remarkably risky
undercover assignment: submerging
himself in the local leather scene in
order to act as bait for a murderer who
has already caused the grisly demise of
several gay bar pick-ups. Burns greets
this offer with'an abrupt "I love it" and
accepts the mission without further
questions. This is only the first of the
movie's many careless ambiguities:
why in the first place does Burns take
on such a dangerous case with scant
police protection, especially when he
seems to have such a pokey and
oblivious attitude toward gays? If the
lure of being promoted to the detective
division is enough to prompt this
enthusiasm, then Pacino's muddled,
monolithic performance doesn't carry
the point well.
Burns takes on an alias, moves out of
his girlfriend's (Karen Allen)
apartment, and moves into a shabby
flat in a predominantly gay district. He

develops a sympathetic relationship
with neighbor Ted Bailey (Don
Scardino), cruises the leather bars
incessantly at night, and gradually
closes in-on the identity of the killer, a
college student named Stuart Richards
(Richard Cox) whose motivations are
even more obscure than the police
officer's. In the production notes for
Cruising, actor Cox attempts to find a
foggy rationale for the ambiguity of his
character: "I see Stuart as never
having been homosexual, but in my
readings and research on him (which
included material on Son of Sam and
Ted Bundy), I came to the conclusion
that these things just aren't able to be
analyzed, these killers all have an
inexplicable quality." Is this meant to
excuse the fact that Friedkin
apparently lacked the imagination or
nerve to provide any kind of reason for
the murderer's violent drives (there's
some vague hinting about a parental
complex, but it's so badly done that it
merely confuses the issue further), so
he left the entire character a blank?
Cruising is so full of narrative and
psychological holes that only its

brutality keeps it from sinking
A lot of the questions that
unanswered seem to have beer
into a state of confusion
director's anxiety during pro
obviously the pressure from ga
during the filming necessitat
watering-down, but Friedkin
attempt to resolve what m
originally been anti-homosex
devices in ~different ways.
leaves them unexplained, shr
an air of murky uncertainty. V
quite grasp whether Richard
with any of his victims, wheth
has sex with the men he picks
the police officer's relationship
girlfriend is so gloomily dragg
by his contact with the gay con
why Burns suddenly appears
fallen in love with his neighi
why it's so easy for Burns to bi
the killer's room in broad dayli
the outside, what the killer's d
relationship with his father v
most of the policemen in the fi
more anti-female ("They
scumbags") than the gays, etc
THE FINAL ten minutes of
in which a new murder victim
long after the murderer h
caught, is an act of desperatior
to rcover all the bases an
reaching any controversial cot
by merely throwing a bla
ambiguity over everythinj
Friedkin could be expected to
movie about murder
homosexuals with a fake-mys

entirely. that would be more suited to an
are left Excorist III.
n thrown The film is crudely assembled and
by the often clumsy (as in the villain's Rod
duction: Serling echo-chambered voice, his mad
y groups internal laughter and the stilted
ed some dialogue), but it has the raw, negative
doesn't charge of the director's most popular
ay have previous work. The French Connection
ual plot was a fairly good, physical police story
He just witbi a fine kinetic chase scene, thought
ouded in its winning of the best picture Oscar
has sex was ridiculously generous. The
eraBurnx Excorist was a technically ingenious
ier Burns labor, but one turned silly by its own
up, why determined solemnity and
with his humorlessness; it was finally just an
;ed down elaborate freak show, without the
nmunity, sympathy toward its characters that
to have might have made us believe in all the
bor Ted, trickery.
reak into NEITHER OF those films betray any
ght from genuine emotion. They're cold and
listurbed mechanical, bent on relentlessly and
vas, why joylessly testing the audience's
lm seem spine-and since audiences have
y're all always gotten a perverse sense of
. pleasure out of having their tolerance
the film, stretched to the breaking point, both
is found were tremendous successes. They gave
as been Friedkin the standing of a major
Si i 4.ries

-,l4. 2
9 IOt 0

I . I


n; it tries
d avoid
anket of
g. Only
afinish a
;tic twist

See CRUISING, Page 7

Popular Organizations
and Non-Violent Movements
David Molmeaux
American Friends Service Committee
Representative in Santiago, Chile
MON., FEB. 25-8:00 PM
Friend's Meetinghouse
1420 Hill St.
Tues., Feb. 26 noon-lunch
U of M International Center, Madison Ave.

- _


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