But who could rehabilitate Cruising (The Hunt), the cursed film denied by Al Pacino?

Cruising (The Hunt)
United Artists

William Friedkin’s detective thriller has just been released on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Considered when it was released in 1980 as a catchy and homophobic turnip, Cruising (The Hunt) is today a top figure in the filmo of William Friedkin. But how on earth was such a turnaround possible?

William Friedkin, of course

When it comes to rehabilitating the cursed films of William Friedkin, there is no better advocate than William Friedkin. After having released in recent years the brilliant Sorcerer from purgatory where he had been languishing since 1977, then accompanied the entry of the Los Angeles Federal Police into posterity, the director of The Exorcist tackled the more thorny case of Cruisingcrazy whodunnit and bitter failure, in which Al Pacino hunts down a serial killer in New York’s gay SM clubs. Resurrected at Cannes in 2007, the film is now getting a facelift (a tad too flashy) on Blu-ray and finds itself celebrated as a classic by the now unanimous critics. At the rate things are going, we will come out one day French Connection writing on the poster:The other great thriller from the director of Cruising.”

Yann Gonzalez and James Franco, a little

After being almost invisible, almost forgotten, in the 80s and 90s, Cruising, once out of the closet, logically began to emulate. The 2010s will have been those of citations and tributes. Yann Gonzalez draws inspiration from it in A Knife in the Heart, the story of a mad killer decimating an underground seventies community, while taking great care, in an interview, to recall Friedkin’s aesthetic sources (gay porn New York City Inferno and its immense leather bacchanal). James Franco, he is delirious in Interior. Leather Bar. about the famous 40 “lost” minutes of the film, which Friedkin had cut to escape the X-rating. Nobody, to tell the truth, knows what was in these supposedly scandalous scenes. But so much the better: it feeds the legend.

Al Pacino, not at all

If Friedkin is always ready to tell anecdotes from the filming of Cruising, do not count on Al Pacino to play this little game. Originally super hot to interpret this very risky role (which star of his rank would accept today to be filmed bare ass and tied up in a bondage session?), the actor became disillusioned from the shooting, when the project was accused of homophobia by the New York gay community. And he becomes mad with rage at the vision of the finished product, which no longer has much to do with the original script. Pacino would ask his girlfriend at the time, Marthe Keller, never to watch the film. And he very rarely talks about his performance in an interview – the most bizarre and impenetrable of his career.

Cruising (The Hunt)
United Artists

New York nerds, many

One of the sources of inspiration for Cruising was an article written by Arthur Bell, published in Village Voice (the bible of the New York counter-culture) and bearing witness to a wave of unexplained murders within SM clubs on the Lower West Side. Ironically, it was the same Arthur Bell who was going to launch the slingshot against the film, calling on his readers to sabotage the shooting. The demonstrations were very violent and this anger againstCruising became a moment of crystallization of gay activism, ten years after the Stonewall riots. Today, tensions are forgotten and Village Voice publishes praise: “A frankly exciting film to watch again when the most outrageous thing you can do in a New York gay club now is to light a cigarette“.

Quentin Tarantino, his way

notorious fan of Cruising (from which he took over the “It’s so easy” by Willy DeVille in the soundtrack of Boulevard of Death), Tarantino had screened the film to the one-piece crew he was playing on Broadway in the 90s : “A triumph!, he explains in the documentary Friedkin Uncut. Homosexuals were discovering a vanished world, which was unknown to them.” It is in this same documentary that he recounts his meeting with Friedkin, a few years later: “I said to him, ‘Hey, Billy, I always wondered, while filming Cruisingwhen the gay community was protesting against the film, organizing demonstrations, calling you names, and you continued to film against all odds, how did you experience all that?” Answer of the person concerned: “I loved !

The weather, of course

In 1980, many American gays could not bear that one of the rare films to represent them chose such a sensationalist approach, and so crudely linked the sexual drive to the drive to kill. In retrospect, however, Cruising appears almost visionary in his description of a hellish world where the homosexual community is struck by an uncontrollable, incomprehensible evil, which foreshadows the ravages of AIDS. Some commentators have put forward this shocking idea: a considerable number of the film’s extras – the real regulars of SM clubs, who are seen in the background of the scenes where “cruise” Pacino – were to be decimated by the epidemic in the years that followed.

Cruising (The Hunt) was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on January 19, 2022

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