AL PACINO –
CRUISING – 1980
This film was important when it
came out in 1980. We were just before the AIDS pandemic hit the world. In New
York the gay scene had crossed the line of simple ordinary cruising to enter
the hard line of sado maso sex, leather paraphernalia and a certain amount of
constraint, force, violence, etc., what some call authoritarian gay sex. In
that scene criminal violence is then a lot more difficult to trace and find out
because it does not stand out “like a sore thumb” but gets blended in the
One serial killer is running on
that stage in New York
and to pick him, to find him out a cop has to be sent undercover. He is young,
handsome, not gay at all, and yet he is going to get into the gay business. He
finds out that this cruising is first of all attractive because it deals with
feelings that are not satisfied otherwise: love, friendship, equal force and
equal power. It is more some accompliceship than real sensation or emotion. The
lovers meet halfway in the project of being as strong as the other, of
submitting the other and be submitted to the other by this other precisely.
This narcissistic fascination, this love for the other who is my equal and to
whom I must submit to be his equal because he submits to me to be my equal –
submission, domination and yet total communion and equality.
This side is actually not
explored enough in this film, except of course occasionally when the undercover
cop meets with his next door neighbor the playwright. But that is little and it
will end badly anyway because in such a situation jealousy and possessiveness
are the two main characteristics of some couples who cannot accept any
intruder, in spite of the fact that the gay bars are necessarily open stages
and open situations. For some to get into a relation is also to get out of all
opportunities to meet with another possible relation, the rejection of any
promiscuity. That is not typical of the gay scene but men have not been used to
being dominated by their partners for something like 300,000 years like women.
Such situations can become very nasty.
The film exploits another line
without giving all the details. The serial killer was rejected by a father who,
we understand, refused his gay orientation and required that he should change
orientation in order to be given the support he wants. Unluckily it is
suggested that the father has been dead for ten years. Hard on the chap who has
not been able to prove himself to his father and is out in the wild without a
father behind him, except as a phantasm to whom he writes hundred of letters,
every week or so, without sending them, of course.
Then we enter the field of
perversion, rather simple actually, maybe too simple. He uses his sexual
orientation to capture a prey, has sex with, complete or partial sex, it does
not matter, and then he kills his prey who “made him do this.” It sounds simple
because it is not explored enough. It is true we were in 1980 and that was a
long time before profiling became popular, a long time before “Criminal Minds.”
It will excuse the lack of expertise with DNA too.
The subject was interesting, but
the treatment has aged a lot and appears today rather simple if not superficial
or just plain provocative, though the provocation has completely gotten out of
the picture for us today.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU