I have to confess that I had not heard of the man who is the
subject of the documentary THAT MAN: PETER BERLIN. Apparently,
he was a well-known fixture on the streets of San Francisco from
the early 1970s. Blond and muscular with a penchant for wearing
extremely tight white jeans that left little to the imagination,
Berlin was as much a "creation" or a "persona" as he was a commodity.
He starred in two gay male erotic films, NIGHTS IN BLACK LEATHER
and THAT BOY (both made in 1974) and then retired from the screen.
Because of this somewhat hermetic choice, he earned the soubriquet
of the "Garbo of Porn."
Filmmaker Jim Tushinski has managed to get the now sixty-
something Berlin to sit down for a series of interviews. The director
also included comments by other "talking heads," ranging from
San Francisco-based author Armistead Maupin to movie director
John Waters (who, unsurprisingly, offers the most amusing quips
about Berlin and the sexual mores of the 1970s).
In many ways, Berlin engaged in performance art before it
was an accepted format. With his trademark Dutchboy haircut, sculpted
physique and those pants, Armin Hagen Von Hoyningen-Huene,
as he was born, prowled the streets first of Europe, then New York
and finally San Francisco, mostly posing and enticing and shocking
those who passed him.
Berlin was also a noted photographer and he actually began his
career taking pictures of celebrities for a German television program.
Eventually, he began to create numerous self-portraits (including some
double exposures) which are quite stunning (and prominently displayed
in his home and in the documentary).
In addition, he reportedly had an affair with actor Sal Mineo
and posed for a series of shots taken by Robert Mapplethorpe.
Tushinski's movie paints an intriguing portrait of the man, part
narcissist, part wallflower. He manages to strip away some of
the layers of the cartoonlike persona and reveal the man underneath.
The end result is a fascinating if not wholly satisfactory portrait of
a creative mind.
MPAA Rating: None
Running time: 80 mins.
|That Man: Peter Berlin
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.