An Absorbing Look at a Sexual Revolution
Joseph Lovett's documentary "Gay Sex in the 70s" is an engrossing piece of social history, a lively, astonishingly well-documented excavation of that period between June 1969 and June 1981 when gay men in New York experienced a bacchanalian burst of sexual liberation.
The first bookend -- June 1969 -- marked the Stonewall riots that ensued after a police raid on a gay bar in Greenwich Village; the episode brought the gay community out of the closet and into the streets as a politicized force.
Politicized and highly sexualized: With candid interviews, pornographic film clips and an impressive cache of archival photographs, Lovett re-creates the bathhouse-and-bar sex scene that might have started out as celebratory but wound up being dangerously compulsive (there wasn't much "I wish I knew how to quit you" romance in the backroom at the Anvil).
Most shocking here are pictures taken on the city's notorious Hudson River piers, where some of the subculture's riskiest encounters took place; like a discreet voyeur, Lovett lets viewers into a world that for most has been cloaked in shadow and urban legend.
The second bookend, of course, was the onset of the AIDS epidemic. But "Gay Sex in the 70s," though a sobering cautionary tale, ends more on a note of rueful optimism than regret.
-- Ann Hornaday
Gay Sex in the 70s Unrated, 72 minutes Contains graphic descriptions and images of sexuality, profanity and adult themes. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.