First Look: 'James Franco's Cruising'
By Jerry Portwood
Photos by Keith Wilson
Although it seems hard to believe for many today, William Friedkin's 1980 film Cruising was controversial even before it appeared in movie theaters. Gay rights groups protested the film in the summer of 1979 to keep it from being released, since many saw it as a homophobic portrayal and worried that it would incite further violence against gay men (the protests are documented in are documented in Jim Hubbard's short film, "Stop the Movie (Cruising)". It starred Al Pacino as an undercover cop who becomes enmeshed in the leather scene to catch a serial killer. And he sort of becomes gay. Or maybe worse. It was re-released in 2007 to little contoversy.
Now, it almost reads as a documentary of a long lost scene, the Meatpacking District in New York City (which is now a fashion destination), the butch clones with their mustaches being mimicked by the cool and trendy, and leather/BDSM circuit, which is all but non-existent. It's much more risquee than the documentary, Gay Sex in the 70s and shows graphic portrayals of sexuality (a sling, fisting) that we would never get through the MPAA today without an NC-17 rating.
As we mentioned earlier, James Franco—the sometime summer blockbuster star, sometime artist wildcard—has teamed up with Travis Mathews, whose I Want Your Love is still making the festival circuit, to work on a homo-art-sex film. Now we know it's a tribute to the Friedkin's flick and is titled James Franco's Cruising.
"[Friedkin] cut the film down at his own expense," Mathews told Indiewire. "Recently, when he was getting ready to do an anniversary edition, Warner Bros. told him that the footage was destroyed. It's possible those 40 minutes implicate Pacino's character in the gay S&M culture. That was the place we started from as a launching point: James Franco's version of those lost 40 minutes."
So what is it about Franco that gets him interested in such bizarro projects? Matthews gives some insight: "He straddles this superstar summer movie blockbuster celebrity life, and on the other hand he does these very low-budget art films," Mathews told Indiewire. "There's the people who know him for his blockbusters, but there's a different population that knows his gallery shows and that he makes semi-esoteric gay content."
Though meaningful, their liaison was brief at just two months. But that's also as long as we'll have to wait to see the film. According to Indiewire, And we may not have to wait that long. "Mathews hopes to debut the final cut in early 2013. An installation version of the footage will play at a group show in a gallery beginning September 12."