That Man: Peter Berlin (2005) Poster

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Biographical Documentary of gay icon/porn star Peter Berlin
DPennSOBE29 April 2005
I had the pleasure of joining a near capacity audience for the North American Premier of "That Man: Peter Berlin" at the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. The film provides a provocative and entertaining look at the life of this 70's gay sex icon who has for years shunned any camera but his own. Containing hundreds of Berlin's pictures of himself (every inch of himself), his vain, self absorbed persona drew me in much as it apparently drew in thousands when he was a 30 year old exhibitionist hunk cruising the streets of San Francisco in his white, skin tight, pants (with a bushel sized basket) and blonde page-boy haircut in the 70's.

Armistead Maupin, John Waters and porn legend Jack Wrangler, together with Producer Lawrence Helman provide insight and commentary into this extraordinary life. Robert Maplethorpe and Andy Warhol provided a glowing peer review from the grave of this interesting photographer cum street performance artist. Possibly most remarkable was the on camera interaction between the Director and the painfully shy Armin (Berlin's real name) about his life experience and his unique take on sex and sexuality.

Director, Jim Tushinski, did a remarkable job of introducing us to both the persona "Peter Berlin" and the reclusive 62 year old from San Francisco who created this iconic persona during his youth.

This is Tushinski's first documentary. While the 80 minutes passed quickly with so much eye candy, the film could benefit from some additional editing and deletion of some stock footage of seemingly irrelevant gay pride parades and such improving both the pace and the length of the film.
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Outstanding documentary of the model/artist/porn star
SanFranMike22 January 2006
This documentary is a very polished retrospective on a sexual icon of the 60's and 70's, on both coasts. The celebrity interviews are very well done, and the entire picture is extremely well edited to hold the viewer's interest all the way through. A man like Peter Berlin who caught the attention of Andy Warhol and his social circles is certainly a personality worth knowing more about. There's been no one like him since. I saw the film in San Francisco, in a packed theater, with Peter Berlin in person interviewed after the show. All attendees certainly seemed as fascinated by the man as I was, whether or not they agreed with his lifestyle, or the values that he represented -- and still does. I urge you to see this very well done work and judge for yourself.
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Who really is "Peter Berlin"?
jvanbuskirk23 January 2006
A provocative and thoughtful profile of the man both behind the camera lens and in front of it. Peter Berlin's iconic status as a photographer, fashion designer and his subject are juxtaposed with interviews with the famous, if reclusive, star. Well-chosen and articulate "talking heads" astutely contextualize the importance of Peter Berlin's seminal role in gay male porn. By turns graphic, poignant, and humorous, the film brilliantly captures the relative innocence of a lost eroticism as it follows Berlin from his European beginnings to his present life in San Francisco. This is a very welcome addition to the historical documentation of the erotic lives of gay men.
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Beautiful, passionate and honest doco of a fine artist
jvframe28 April 2005
This feature length documentary gives us an honest and privileged look at the life and times of the large-as-life unrestrainedly gay character, the perpetually beautiful "Peter Berlin". We meet the very attractive man (now in his sixties) who lived that character nearly 24/7 in the early 70's. He is a very talented photographic artist (and his own model) who cared much less for money than he did for enjoying life and artistic expression. He is also just as proudly gay in private life.

Instead of feeling like mere voyeurs (and there's plenty of pleasing imagery on offer) we really do gain a valuable insight into a life lived to the max - including enduring love and the grief of loss. We hear testimonies on how Peter Berlin's persona affected his contemporaries, including gay icons John Waters and Armistead Maupin.

This is a wonderful and unique film.

P.S. It's warming to know that some beautiful people are also genuinely nice guys.
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The Seventies in Microcosm
alanreade23 January 2006
Before seeing this movie, you may say to yourself, "Peter Berlin? What's the big deal?" But stay with it, as the story is rewarding. Director Jim Tushinski obviously saw a chance to put the urban gay-lib era of the seventies under a microscope by focusing on one man's story instead of a general documentary--and the man he focused on just happens to be "the" icon of gay sexual life at a certain crossroads. The film's imagery is evocative, the sexuality palpable, and the cameos from Armistead Maupin, Robert W. Richards, and others are witty. But the best moments of this film are during Mr. Berlin's touching recollections about his own life. As Berlin talks candidly about the losses he experienced as the seventies faded into the Reagan years, it's impossible to look away--partly because there are so many men whose experiences are reflected in his story. It's during these revelations that Tushinski knows to keep the camera trained closely on his subject, and these moments are what elevates this film from historical document to riveting cinema.
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He Wants to Be Alone-really!
ReWriteMan6230 January 2006
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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Drert22 January 2006
I might not want to go to a party with Peter Berlin but I really enjoyed hanging out with him for a while. It's a challenging film. It addresses so many issues but ultimately it is about art and narcissism. It's not a gay film. It's a film about making statements and Peter Berlin's happens to deal with his self-image and part of that is his sexuality.

The film reminded me that we all define ourselves and that it's good to know yourself. It also reminded me to be in the fully moment and that whatever I think is beautiful is beautiful.

Not bad things to be reminded of in my opinion.
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That Movie: Loved It
JeanL-Thompson24 January 2006
It doesn't matter if you are gay, straight, male, or female, or any combination of the above. You will find the images of the young Peter Berlin arresting, and the story of this in-your-face 70's sexual icon by turns funny, ironic, and mournful. We hear from John Waters, Armistead Maupin and others who knew of Peter in his prime, and from Peter Berlin himself, now in his 60's. What is it like to live your life as an object of desire? The answers are not always what we might expect. The film explores questions of voyeurism - why are we so entranced by the beautiful - narcissism, fame, and age. A visually compelling film that combines social history with personal story, and leaves you with much to think about. Top quality film-making.
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Sweetly nostalgic, but seeing the real thing was better
ace-1506 April 2007
If you don't like self-absorbed crazy people, this film isn't for you. You should probably also avoid moving to San Francisco, because he's not really that unusual by SF standards. I remember seeing him standing around in the Castro (at Hibernia Beach!) in the seventies. Even though it was an era of sexual freedom that we can barely conceive now, seeing him was shocking. The film doesn't really convey what it was like to see this caricature of male sex in his see-through pants with enormous basket on display. The first time that I saw him, I just kept thinking, "Isn't he going to be arrested?". Later that evening, I had other thoughts. I had no idea who he was until this movie came out, but that image is still burned into my brain. It was transfixing, and this film is a nostalgic look at the era that made him an icon.
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Exotic and Unexpected Documentary
pmullinsj9 February 2006
The persona was always unique, but I didn't find him sexy--rather exactly the visual object he mostly saw himself as, and continually sought to create.

This was very worthwhile, though, and he was very much an interesting part of the Andy Warhol Pop period. The snippets of 'Nights in Black Leather' prove that the film work was inferior even for porno of the time. A short such as 'Chute' with Al Parker and the far more gorgeous and naturally sexy Colt model Toby (it would be interesting to know what has happened to this long-ago, never-surpassed porn icon as well; I only know he is apparently still alive, but there must be something, since such illustrious authorities as 'Smutjunkies' have decided that, if they do know anything, it's on the q.t.) was actually a nice, even poetic bit of work, and not sloppily edited like the Warhol things with Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis, etc. Peter De Rome's 'Adam and Yves' was exciting when it arrived in 1974, although De Rome can be a bit corny.

I do agree with the porn spokesmen in the film that the concentration on this persona was very intense and that does make him a real artist, although quite minor. It was interesting that there was a lot of footage of him in informal appearances during the 70's. However, calling him the 'Greta Garbo of porn' is a bit much, as this film alone proves he wants some more visibility. As solipsistic as she became, her knowledge of life and art was considerably wider than his appears to be. Furthermore, his work is of interest, but not that of a cinematic genius, which hers is.

And what is interesting is that, even with this strange persona still intact, he is to me visually by now quite beautiful--there was a cheap look to the self-conscious Peter Berlin of the tight white pants; by now, the mouth has widened and is more relaxed and he is by now at last a truly beautiful man. I paid little attention to him during his heyday, when his face, in particular, looked like that of an inflatable girl dildo.

So that he and others concentrate on his look as well as his imaginative use of various forms to capture it--most fascinating perhaps was his hiring of Tom of Finland to give him even more exaggerated self-images. However, facts such as his long friendship with James, which was very touching and showed his less purely narcissistic side, and his confession that he had fornicated no one in the U.S., were quite rarefied, given his street performance.

There was interesting commentary by Jack Wrangler, who apparently also has rooms made into self-shrines but is much more the part-hetero guy his parents must surely have preferred to his burlesque 'n' porn days (even if his wife is 20 plus years older than he, himself no spring chicken, is.) The problem of this kind of neurosis, even when successful, is that there is a peculiar lack of interest in much of anything else. Anti-war comments are merely childish, but some of the family background was interesting. This kind of 'dream person', though, tells about early childhood, and there is no follow-up about any further relationships with his family, leading one to assume he left them for good, and remains intoxicated with the days when he can still walk the streets and be told he's 'cute.' He is definitely 'cute' now, and could afford to wear a lot of dressy things and be a great stylish older beauty by now, and the looser clothing he is seen in when interviewed in the film shows that his taste is still sharp. Some of us have even found it to be improved. I didn't remember until the very end of the feature that I did see him once around Christopher Street in his 'That Boy' period, which I found interesting but not alluring. He definitely had his audience, though.

Best wishes to Mr. Peter Berlin.
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a peek behind the mask reveals another mask
rigan-124 January 2006
What I liked most about Jim Tushinski's film was that he avoided "commenting" on his subject. In the true spirit of the documentary he leaves it up to the audience to draw their own conclusions concerning Peter Berlin, his motivations, and his inner life. Peter remains an enigma through much of this documentary and is dubbed the "Greta Garbo of porn". I found the film very thought provoking. "That Man: Peter Berlin" joins the pantheon of gay culture and the interviews by such gay luminaries as John Waters and Armistead Maupin are an added treat. If you liked this film check out Jim's "Jan Michael Vincent Is My Muse". It's touching and humorous.
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The Baron
EdgarST10 June 2015
Homophobia has always been the first obstacle for many persons to enter the world of "gay icon" Peter Berlin, and now it has the same effect on common viewers to watch -not to mention appreciate- the documentary "That Man: Peter Berlin". Second, the perception of what Polish-born baron Armin von Hoyningen-Huene did to himself in the 1970s (that is, creating a character called Peter Berlin, becoming a fixed figure in the streets of San Francisco and taking himself many erotic photographs, among other things) as the sole effect of narcissism or exhibitionism, can also dissuade many to watch this motion picture. Surprisingly, Berlin emerges as all that and as someone more interesting, a richer personality and a complex character. I belong to a generation after his, but I had the opportunity to live the moment when Peter Berlin became a sensation among homosexuals (mostly in the Occident and in the North hemisphere), a historic moment when the fight for the civil rights of all of us who had sexual orientations different from the "official behavior" became more radical, and helped us to define what fronts of our existences needed strategies of defense. In that context Berlin made himself an object of conceptual art, if you will, a performing artist of the notion of sexual desire as an act of observation rather than interaction in "events" (although he had his share of those activities through his pornographic films, and his encounters through his intense social life). Today he declares that he became a sort of abstemious sensual machine that rarely had sex with anyone, and preferred to have permanent relationships. For someone who was not only extremely handsome when free from the demands of his Berlin character, but also successful, travelled and sought after by Richards, Warhol, Mapplethorpe and other avant-garde artists, it is quite moving to hear him talk about the painful aspects of his life, about his difficult journey, from the loss of his father in II World War to the struggles in post-war Europe, the abuse of substances of all kinds, and the disappearance of many friends, including two partners. Although this may seem a bit frivolous on my part, I need to comment that I found strange and rare that most of the times director Jim Tushinski deliberately abstained from exposing Peter Berlin's bare penis, which was copiously displayed in his photographs and --apart from his brain—was the actor's most prominent "source of inspiration" in his work. Otherwise, "That Man: Peter Berlin" is a fine work, a testament of one exhilarating time in the evolution of sexual mores and of one of its more prominent figures.
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Testamant to a Tease
haridam031 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In his own words this icon, now in his 60s, admits to not having wanting to engage in sex with his admirers.

In his salad days during the early '70s, he posed in doorways, in naves of tree trunks, and on the beach, hoping a pass would come his way. But he didn't want the encounter to be physically consummated. He didn't even want to kiss or hug, much less have intercourse.

As soon as the potential catch got close, the icon would move elsewhere--a cat-and-mouse game that might last for hours.

What's one to make of this? Could it be our icon was, in fact, asexual? He confesses all he ever craved was love-- fine, just express it from a distance.

This 80 minute documentary pays homage to a striking (though some might feel stangely nonsexual) mini-star of the past. Ten minutes of viewing his stills, though, might seem long enough for some viewers (who might wish they'd have just skipped the other sixty). Still, there's no doubt that Berlin, with his pageboy bob and skintight jeans, does make a statement. Looking like a cross between a French hustler and German call boy, Berlin's now been duly chronicled for posterity by way of this doc.

Maybe that's all he ever really wanted.
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As Enchanting As the Facets on a Cut Diamond
craigjoseph27 May 2017
Saturday, May 27, 2017 6:36:40 PM


Brilliant! One of the best documentaries I have ever seen. This is rare jewel of a film about a strong, complex, fascinating man who stays true to himself and lives his life to the fullest. He is to me an inspiration and a reminder of how much life there is out there to be lived. Peter seems to embody two things, the song from the 1975 movie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show: "Don't Dream It Be It". And a tag line from the 1958 movie, Auntie Mame: "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death". Peter seems to have had and still has a very welcome seat at the banquet. Explaining such a rich and rewarding film in a few words is hard. I can only sincerely urge you to watch and enjoy it. it is a piece of art for anybody interested in history and freedom and life.

Thank you, Peter. Thank you. Just two more quotes, one from Shakespeare, that Peter seems to live: "To thine own self be true…" From Shakespeare to the 1994 Salt 'N' Pepa/ En Vogue/ feat song: "Whatta Man. Whatta Man. Whatta mighty Good Man." Peter, you truly are. But enough from me. Instead of reading this, you could be watching the documentary. So, happy watching. Now it's time to put my camel to bed. Cheers.
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The beginnings of Soft/Hard Core
larapha24 November 2016
The cinematic biography of Irving Berlin is a diving in the beginnings of erotic gay male cinematic world of the seventies. I myself remember him as an Icon of the times, even though he didn't engage in proper hard core films. That's perhaps why he was spared of AIDS epidemics, and can give a live presence in this doc. The film is interesting in many aspects, the most important of them being to give the ambiance in which gay people then lived. It was not necessary to be explicit to be erotic, and the film explores that. The testimony of Berlin is a high point for the film. He's a completely free soul, living from the grace of his friends and entering his sixties still with sex appeal. We are introduced to the main films he recorded at the time, very ingenuous for today's standards. All in all, it's a pleasant memoir to watch.
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Gay Leather Icon
bkoganbing9 October 2015
Peter Berlin and I'll use the name that he invented for himself rather than the German name he was born with made only a very few films but has remained to this day a legend in the gay porn field. He is that to this day because he brought an artistic flair into a highly specialized field of leather fetishism. I well remember still being in the closet and looking at those ads in Greenwich Village for That Boy and thinking this was the ideal man for us all.

As the film shows us even as a senior citizen Berlin lives in San Francisco a figure both of awe that even like Garbo (and the comparison is used in the film) people see him, acknowledge him, but give him a wide berth. He's no boy next door, at least not anyone like him ever lived next door to me.

I'm not sure of how he would take the comparison, but a recent biography of John Wayne quotes the man as saying he was just a kid named Duke Morrison from Iowa who lucked out and got into the John Wayne business. So it was with this immigrant kid from Germany who got into the Peter Berlin business.

Some gay community icons offer comment and perspective on Peter Berlin, none more than the man himself.
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Good Documentary
Michael_Elliott3 February 2017
That Man: Peter Berlin (2005)

*** (out of 4)

If you're a fan of model and actor Peter Berlin then you should get a kick out of this documentary, which covers his entire career and features interviews with the man himself as well as some of his closest friends and fans like John Waters.

Director Jim Tushinski once again does a very good job at taking a subject that might not appeal to everyone and showing it in a way that is not only educational but a lot of fun. I say educational because I'm sure there are many people that would be put off by the type of films Berlin made but you could make a great argument that he should be much better known than he is.

Like the documentary the same director would later do on Wakefield Poole, this here works perfectly well at introducing you to the subject as well as letting you know what type of impact they had on their professional and why calling Berlin (and Poole) ground-breaking is worthy of what they did. This documentary certainly does a very good job at taking a look at various aspects of Berlin's life and best of all is we get his thoughts on all of it.
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A Very Little of Peter Berlin Goes a LONG Way
jwpappas17 January 2006
This could've & should've been a documentary short. Peter Berlin is just not that important nor that interesting to justify this stulifyingly dull & overlong shot on video documentary. If the directors wanted to make a feature length documentary they could've expanded their scope to other erotic artists at the time such as James Bidgood (of PINK NARCISSUS fame) or Wakefield Pool (TAKE ONE, BOYS IN THE SAND). Peter Berlin is a forgettable & mostly forgotten footnote in gay erotic history & this snoozer of a documentary will not change that.

If you want to check out a good documentary on an obscure cult figure check out Andrew Horn's THE NOMI SONG. If you want to see a fun & fluffy look at gay erotica from the 1970s check out Joseph Lovett's GAY SEX IN THE 1970s. But skip THAT MAN PETER BERLIN. If you waste your time & money on this you'll say the same thing my boyfriend did as we exited The Cinema Village: "That man, Peter Berlin owes me $10.50 plus 85 minutes of my life!".
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