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That Man: Peter Berlin

  • Film

Time Out says

FLY BOY Berlin keeps the jewels hidden.

In Jim Tushinski's captivating doc, '70s gay-porn legend Peter Berlin, sporting a flaxen Dutch Boy 'do and the tightest trousers, is classified by one admirer as "a full-body genital." Others proffer more piquant descriptions of the priapic prince, invoking the names of starlets: John Waters hails Berlin as "Dinah Shore with a hard-on"; filmmaker Rick Castro thinks of him as "the Greta Garbo of porn." Of the split between his public and private personae, Berlin notes, "Marilyn Monroe was one thing, but Norma Jean was another thing entirely."

Although Berlin, now 63, is no demure candle in the wind, he's no bitter flameout, either. Filmed in his San Francisco apartment, the obsessive self-chronicler still has the same peroxided tresses, suggesting a Dorian Gray for the Honcho set (though he's long retired from XXX flicks). That Man, rough-hewn but stuffed with archival clips, including scenes from the Berlin stroke classics Nights in Black Leather (1973) and That Boy (1974), patiently prods its subject to go in search of lost time. In a thick Teutonic accent, Berlin reminiscences about lavender associations over the decades. On Sal Mineo, whom he met in Paris: "He loved, loved white Jockey shorts!" On Robert Mapplethorpe, who photographed him: "Did I meet him in a dungeon?" Generous and compassionate, That Man ties up Berlin's life in one nice package. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village. See also "Endowment for the arts," page 98.) —Melissa Anderson

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