What Oscar winning director known for action movies also happens to have worked with gay icons Barbra Streisand and Cher and directed two controversial gay-themed movies?
To find out, you must get to Berkeley 's Pacific Film Archieves starting this Thursday as there is a retrospect for the acclaimed filmmaker entitled “Dark Matters.”
This Thursday starts with the action-packed “To Live and Die in L.A.” and the retrospective will run through Sept. 21 and include such titles as the Oscar winning “The French Connection,” the recent sensation “Killer Joe” and the underrated “Sorcerer.” In case you hadn’t guessed, the filmmaker is William Friedkin, who will also be on hand on after the screening of “Sorcerer” and to sign copies of his book prior to the screening of “Cruising.”
Working with Barbra and Cher can capture the gay person’s interest, but it was the landmark films of “The Boys and the Band” and “Cruising” which were quite controversial in their times and Friedkin, even though a big Hollywood mainstream filmmaker, still felt these tales needed to be told.
“The Boys in the Band,” from the play by Mart Crowley, was the first movie to feature all gay characters. Perhaps some a little too stereotypical and filled with messages of doom that echo in the book “The Celluloid Closet,” but still the movie was ground breaking and certainly helped pave the way – although many years later – for gay characters to have relevant roles in movies. The “Boys” characters aren’t just for comedic effect to have a nelly neighbor stop in with a fun zinger and move on. These “Boys” are from all walks of life and this truly remains a period piece (even though some would call outdated.) I actually saw this re-staged in Portland recently as a play and I was fascinated by the fact how groundbreaking this way.
The unknown cast never became household names but Leonard Frey did receive an Oscar nomination for a movie he made a year later; Cliff Gorman had a very nice career as a supporting actor; Peter White had great success in soap operas and Laurence Luckinbill went on to star in movies, stage and even won an Emmy for TV
Certainly a decade would be enough time to get over a controversial film, but they never stopped Friedkin, who also become controversial with “The Exorcist” and then again with the gay-themed “Cruising.”
While being filmed and when it opened “Cruising” had protesters and not really from the straight community – but from gays. The protests were mostly based upon the continuing theme that gay characters in movies are murderers, suicidal or victims, as outlined in the “Celluloid Closet” book. While the protesters had a good point that we need more positive gay characters on screen, Friedkin moved ahead with this melodrama based upon real life murders. The film, starring Al Pacino as a cop who goes undercover in the gay leather scene to seek out a killer, added fuel to the fire. Not only is there a character on screen killing gays, but the gay characters are depicted as seedy with fetish interests.
The controversy on this film outlasted “Boys” as it took over 15 years to get “Cruising” on videotape.. Also, recently, Oscar nominee James Franco and San Francisco filmmaker Travis Mathews made a documentary in which they re-created the most controversial scenes of this film that were cut to keep the film to an R rating. These sexually explicit bondage scenes may be gone forever but to see a recreation, seek out at film festivals, “Interior. Leather Bar,” which screened at this year’s Frameline Film Festival. (More info on "Interior" at www.interiorleatherbar.com).
A great reason to cross the bridge from San Francisco.
To get tickets, go to www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/filmseries/friedkin.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
7:00 p.m. To Live and Die in L.A.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
8:30 p.m. The French Connection
Sunday, September 15, 2013
5:00 p.m. The Boys in the Band
Thursday, September 19, 2013
7:00 p.m. Sorcerer - includes conversation with the director
Saturday, September 21, 2013 6:00 p.m. Book Signing with William Friedkin, followed by Cruising
Saturday, September 21, 2013 8:50 p.m. Killer Joe
P.S. Friedkin directed Cher in one of her first movies "Good Times" and directed and interviewed Barbra Streisand in the HBO special "The Making of 'The Broadway Album'"