Monday, October 28, 2013

Cruising (1980)

WHO: William Friedkin directed this, and Al Pacino stars in it, although the latter was very dissatisfied with the completed picture and has never spoken about it in public since.

WHAT: I wasn't old enough to experience the controversies around the filming of Gerald Walker's novel and its initial release, nor was I in town when its 1995 revival at the Roxie (recounted by programmer Elliot Lavine in the SF Bay Guardian and The Evening Class) opened the gates for re-evaluation. But I did finally see it at the Castro in 2007, and found it an interesting if often unsuccessful film that didn't really match the reductive readings of it by its harshest critics, even if it ultimately lacked anything of the forceful impact of Friedkin's best films such as Sorcerer. A concise, fairly-balanced history of the Cruising controversy has been written by Michael D. Klemm.

When the PFA screened both films with Friedkin an attendance as part of a mini-retrospective last month, I missed the Cruising q&a but wasn't surprised that the first audience question after Sorcerer screened was actually about the more controversial later film. The question was about the recent James Franco picture Interior. Leather Bar. which imagines and re-enacts the "lost" footage from Cruising, more than a half hour of sex club shots that Friedkin says in his recent page-turner of a memoir that he put in the movie with the expectation it would be cut out so he could slide the rest of his film past the censors with an R rating. As you can see on youtube, Friedkin gives an entertaining answer about his relationship to Franco's piece, but also uses the question as an opportunity to talk about the making of Cruising as he remembers it- there is some crossover from his account in his memoir but in fact both accounts compliment each other.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens today only at 3:45 and 8:45 at the Castro Theatre.

WHY: Today's screening of Cruising along with Interior. Leather Bar. dovetails nicely with the Yerba Buena Center For the Arts upcoming X: The History of a Film Rating program which collects many of the more high-profile, non-pornographic movies that have at one point or another been saddled with the MPAA's most restrictive rating. There are at least a few other titles on the Castro's just-released November calendar that also make a nice compliment to this series: John Waters's Female Trouble, which screens at the Castro November 7th along with the new documentary on its star I Am Divine, and David Cronenberg's Crash, which screens November 13th along with Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend

HOW: Both Cruising and Interior. Leather Bar. screen via DCP.

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