”The End of Cruising”
Finding Each Other
Let me start off my saying that I am a huge Todd Verow fan even when he makes gritty and realistic movies. I think that is because he dares to go where others will not. This new documentary is typical Verow—bold and graphic and it is meant only for mature viewers.Today we live in an age of technology that has changed the way we meet each other or shall I say, cruise each other. In fact I am not sure that the word cruising even exists anymore. I remember the good old days in New Orleans when people cruised each other on the street and it was not strange at all to meet someone while mailing a letter or just strolling down the street.
“The End of Cruising” is a stimulating anthology documentary of 22 short films that celebrate the pleasures gay men had finding places for anonymous sexual activity. Eloquent voice-over narrators tells their stories longingly and with fond memories of how the simple act of cruising played such an important part in the way they grew sexually. They reflect on the experience of having private sex in public places – from furtive, but knowing glances on the street to anonymous assignations in toilets, parks and on beaches. Verow’s films are always intense and that is why he has never been shy about showing and celebrating transgressive sexuality—we have seen it before in some of his other films.
Today if someone wants to have sex all he has to do is log on to the Internet, connect to a site and there it is. The bar scene has died quickly but it was once very different. In this film, Verow remembers a time when cruising areas provided instant gratification. There were public toilets, woods, highway rest areas, parks and cruising could be subtle or wild. Verow has taken the testimonies, most of which are anonymous and gives them to us in voiceovers by different narrators. This is quite a cinematic experience and very exciting and I am sure we will all remember how it once was.
It is a bygone time but memories will come back to us and no doubt this will be nostalgic for many. We have now won the right to be who we are but Todd Verow tells us that “When you win something, we always lose another.” In most Western countries, gays can now live their sexuality freely, without having to hide. They can live their love, consider getting married, or just have sex while online for just a few moments. Now instead of seeing people face to face we exchange electronic photos and impersonality reigns.
“The End of Cruising” reminds us that all is not necessarily great. In the old days we risked being arrested and having our names in the newspaper. So there was a price to pay as well. We get here a whirlwind ride through a time that was and probably never will be again so it is definitely worth remembering.