Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Age and profiling have changed the scene of serial killers.


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 surrounding violence.

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.


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