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Postcards from London
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Postcards from London

What critic B. Ruby Rich dubbed the “New Queer Cinema” encountered little but praise (plus some attention-getting damnation from political conservatives) with such early ’90s titles as “Swoon,” “My Own Private Idaho,” “The Living End,” “Paris Is Burning,” and so forth. But by mid-decade the vogue had run long enough that even gay audiences felt less inclined to embrace every creative effort, giving a relatively cold shoulder to Steve McLean’s “Postcards From America” (1994) and Todd Verow’s “Frisk.” Both were adapted from edgy gay lit figures — the former from autobiographical writings by David Wojnarowicz (who’d died of AIDS), the latter from a typically violent, queasy novel by Dennis Cooper.

These films look better now than most critics or viewers allowed then. The revulsion “Frisk” was greeted with (at a time when gay films were expected to provide some measure of reassuring uplift) only emboldened Verow as a since-highly-prolific director of microbudget features, often starring himself. Yet the tepid reception accorded “America” a wildly uneven, somewhat pretentious, but often adventurous and touching biographical fantasia seemed to stall McLean’s career at its start.

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