He slept with Sal Mineo, was photographed by Andy Warhol, and he was lusted after by millions of men around the world. Model, photographer, filmmaker, clothing designer, and porn icon Peter Berlin is his own greatest creation. Berlin is front and center in this bio documentary from director Jim Tushinski, and featuring interviews with director John Waters, novelist Armistead Maupin, 70s porn Director Wakefield Poole and more, all with Berlin as the subject. This intimate film reveals the legendary man with the white saran wrapped pants, undersized leather vests, and Dutch-boy haircut.Written by
I caught a festival screening of THAT MAN PETER BERLIN with really no knowledge of him or his place in either queer or porn history. I was drawn by the Garbo aspect of his life; basically walking away from a film 'career'(such as it was) and onto the streets of San Francisco, where sightings of him evoke the kind of response one heard about the Swedish Sphynx in New York. Apparently well off financially (or maybe just thrifty) his story is never tipped to the tragic, nor is it ever truly comic. What WAS incredible was to see icons I admire,John Waters and Armistead Maupin, have the same sort of giddiness towards spotting Berlin that I might have towards spotting them(although that doesn't happen in my town). As for the film, the pace moved swiftly and succinctly, and the color of the 70's footage was spectacular. I felt the filmmakers presented the facts, but ultimately lets the viewer judge Peter Berlin and draw our own conclusion; is he crazy, or merely the quaint and eccentric archetype you'd expect to find in San Francisco? Was he ahead of his time, or an aspect of a time we're just re-discovering? The footage of 'vintage' Peter(in that glorious color) interspersed with Peter today were not as jarring or 'Norma Desmond-y' as you might fear,and in that respect the film never fell into either camp celebration or spiteful mockery, which I found refreshing. Considering so many men of Peter's era were lost to the AIDS crisis, THAT MAN is an 'essential': a filmed document of a time in queer history nearly lost. We should be thankful this story has been recorded.
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