The raunchy, brainy film writings of Boyd McDonald

Cover00Melissa Anderson at Bookforum:

Nearly twenty years ago, Susan Sontag, in “The Decay of Cinema,” lamented, “No amount of mourning will revive the vanished rituals—erotic, ruminative—of the darkened theater.” But a decade before this dirge was written, Boyd McDonald, who had largely abandoned going out to the movies in 1969 (for reasons never explained), proved that some of the most ecstatic cinephilic—and carnal—delights could be found sitting alone at home. McDonald lustily, discursively wrote about the films that aired at all hours on television, which he viewed in his single-room apartment on the Upper West Side, often focusing on minor or supporting actors, as in this tribute to Steve Cochran, a second-billed performer inWhite Heat (1949): “But I have digressed from my topic, and digressed so far that it may be necessary to remind the reader what my topic is: the size of Cochran’s meat.” Between 1983 and 1985, his lubricious cultural criticism ran as a column in the gay magazine Christopher Street; those pieces, along with others written for New York Native, Connection, andPhiladelphia Gay News, were published in 1985 by the Gay Presses of New York as Cruising the Movies: A Sexual Guide to Oldies on TV. McDonald’s essential but under-recognized book, reissued by Semiotext(e) in an expanded edition with previously uncollected articles, offers, in its beautifully articulated bawdiness, perverse pleasures and a radical, though nondidactic, political view. It is, in other words, a model critical text.

The expansive introduction to Cruising the Movies, by experimental filmmaker William E. Jones, provides a helpful biographical sketch of McDonald and places this singular writer in a larger homo-cultural context.

more here.