Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|That Man Peter Berlin|
Actors: Jim Tushinski, John Waters, Armistead Maupin
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Studio: Water Bearer Films Release Date: 06/13/2006 Run time: 80 minutes Rating: Nr
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Anatomy of an icon
Charles S. Houser | Binghamton, NY | 06/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A brilliant film by Jim Tushinski about a fascinating and unforgetable gay icon. Peter Berlin with his chisled abs, smooth skin, Dutchboy haircut, exaggerated (and self-altered) wardrobe, and unflinching gaze epitomized the boldness and sexual freedom that marked gay life in New York and San Francisco in the years immediately following Stonewall. Often referred to as a porn star, he surprisingly only made two erotic films. But like a true icon, he is remembered more for his still images--photographs taken by Robert Mapplethorp or himself, posters and newspaper ads for his movies, and drawings by Tom of Finland. Some of the most fascinating of these still images are the double exposures he took of himself in which, Narcissus like, he seems to be trying to seduce himself. He was extremely conscious of his ability to attract attention and managed to project both an androgynous and hyper-masculine image. Madonna could learn a lot from him should she ever deign to emerge from whatever glen she is lurking in.
Tushiinski does a great job of blending a generous amount of vintage film footage showing Berlin in his heyday with insightful interview clips from people like Armistead Maupin, Jack Wrangler, Wakefield Poole, and John Waters. Skillfully interwoven with these are interview clips with Berlin himself, alive and well and living in San Francisco. At 60, he dresses the same and looks, well, like an older version of himself. Berlin is comfortable talking about himself and needs no prompting from the director. He even provides the voice-over for much of the film. He speaks about his interactions with Andy Warhol and Mapplethorpe, his inability to make any real money, and his close friends who died from "the virus." (His own HIV-negative status is probably attributable to the fact that he enjoyed exhibitionism and seduction more than actual sex.) He is not in denial about growing old. He's honest about his regrets but is neither bitter nor overwhelmed by them. He is and always has been apolitical (declining to be grand marshall of San Francisco's gay pride parade). It's hard to say why he remains such a fascinating figure. Perhaps we just admire (and envy) his unflagging, unrepentent self-love.
This DVD has lots of extras, including a gallery of many of those wonderful still images. The director's commentary is way above average. Fascinating stuff, from beginning to end!
Jethro Craig | New York City, NY, USA | 10/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary on Peter Berlin's life is really quite extraordinary. I've know his face and I've known his face since I bought my first porn mag back in the early/mid 80's but I had never put the two together. And, getting to see ALL facets of his work and life, especially all of the amazing self-photography he did, is great. There are so many gay men out there who know his face (or name), like I did, but don't know Peter's full-story...and here it is...and quite and intriguing one it is. They don't make 'em like this anymore...a porn star's shelf life, as is said in the documentary, is about 14 minutes these days, but Peter Berlin and a select few men from the 70's and very early 80's still endure and I believe always will. Well worth your buck both for the biography and for all the images of this stud."
Who is Peter Berlin?
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 02/11/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Peter Berlin was a star in the same sense that Edie Sedgewick and similar personalities were: they were extraordinarily famous within an extremely narrow subculture, but that fame did not translate to broader celebrity.
Born Armin Hagen Freiherr von Hoyningen-Huene in 1942 Germany, Belin trained as a photographer and wandered Europe for several years before arriving in San Francisco. There he tapped into the city's gay community and reinvented himself as a street icon, instantly recognizeable for his open shirts, obscenely tight pants, and Dutch-Boy haircut. In 1973 he starred in the X-rated KNIGHTS IN BLACK LEATHER; both the film and Berlin's poster design were widely known. A year later he starred in yet another X-rated film, THAT MAN; he made four short X-rated films; he was also the star of at least four X-rated "loops." Photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe, drawn by Tom of Finland, he was very much an "underground" star.
Berlin, however, had a bit more going for him than an attractive body and a willingness to display it. At some point Berlin began to do his own art work, most of which involved photographing himself in various stages of far-out attire. Although his work hardly places him in the same class as, say, Robert Mapplethorpe or Andy Warhol, it did achieve a following, and is still seen today in various exhibitions, collections, and displays. But time was against him: his favorite subject, his own body, passed its peak of perfection--and in the 1980s AIDS began to unravel the gay culture that had made his celebrity possible.
Created in 2005 by Jim Tushinski, THAT MAN: PETER BERLIN is a portrait of Berlin both then and now, featuring interviews with such notable gay men as John Waters and Armistead Maupin--but most particularly with Berlin himself, who emerges as an odd mixture of blankness, narcissim, and hard-core realist. Sometimes described by interview subjects as "Garbo-esque" for the distance he imposes between himself and others, Berlin now passes his days in casual obscurity, recognized occasionally on the streets by old fans, self-absorbed but far from self-pitying, still interested in the art for which he is his own canvass.
The DVD comes with a number of bonuses, most particularly the images created by Berlin, additional interview materials, and a director's commentary. Berlin's celebrity is very much of a certain place and time, and his personality is not easily evaluated--but he is indeed an icon on an era in the gay community, a brief window in time during which anything seemed possible in the city by the bay. Recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
Portrait of a unique gay porn icon, our "Garbo" ...
Bob Lind | Phoenix, AZ United States | 08/11/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Growing up gay in the 1970's, one could not help but be aware of the name, persona and photos of Peter Berlin, perhaps the most successful gay model/photographers of the past century. With his clean good looks, longish blonde cut, and defined body, always framed by a series of creative leather and other wardrobes, Berlin was an icon of that decade's gay porn, starring in self-produced vanity pieces like "Nights in Black Leather" and "That Boy" that had extended runs at the gay porn film houses of the time. He was unique at that time when gay society pretty much demanded the "clone look" (short hair, moustache, flannel shirt, jeans, boots), while his look was almost exactly the opposite. Information or interviews about him were few and far between, as the highly personal and reclusive Berlin limited access to get to know the "real" him, preferring to let his photos and people's imaginations carry him to fame.
Thirty years later, this 2005 documentary looks at Peter Berlin from his childhood to the present, getting additional perspectives from those who have known or interviewed him over the years, including author Armistead Maupin, producer/director Wakefield Poole, director John Waters, and fellow porn star Jack Wrangler. At least of the 80 minute running time consists of classic film shot during Berlin's prime, walking the streets of San Francisco, on photo shoots, doing his poses as "street art" in cruising areas, and scenes from his two feature films and several shorts. We learn about travels in Europe, his lifepartner of over 20 years, his friendship with Andy Warhol, and - though I found it hard to believe - the fact that he led a fairly celebate life in San Francisco. Peter gives a tour of his apartment, displays some of the souveniers of his career, and talks honestly about his motivations and influences over the years. It's an interesting look at a unique individual, kind of gay porn's answer to Garbo.
DVD has photo gallery, additional interview and director commentary. I give it three stars out of five."