THE SWENKAS (Jeppe Rønde, Denmark). 72 min. Subtitled. Friday (April 29), 9:30 pm, Bloor, and Sunday (May 1), 3:30 pm, ROM. Rating: NNNN
HOT DOCS: CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL to May 1, various locations. $10, various passes $60, stu/srs free at daytime screenings, screenings after 11 pm free. 416-530-8105, www.hotdocs.ca. For complete Hot Docs schedule, see Indie & Rep Film, page 117.
Although to today's eyes he looks like Owen Wilson with a bad haircut, killer abs and an expense account at Northbound Leather, Peter Berlin was once an influential 70s porn icon, as aging gay men including novelist Armistead Maupin and filmmaker John Waters recall in this entertaining doc.
Berlin fetishized himself by taking provocative self-portraits (Waters calls him "Dinah Shore with a hard-on"), making films and basically displaying himself in doorways and streets from Manhattan to San Francisco.
Director Jim Tushinski tracks his life, which included encounters with Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe and even actor Sal Mineo, and fleshes out the picture with generous interviews with the now 60-something subject, who essentially says there's nothing good about being old.
I'm not sure Berlin's the gay liberator some of the interviewees make him out to be, and we're missing any comment on gays and narcissism. But the film provides a fascinating glimpse of 70s gay life and style, which, come to think of it, were one and the same. Stay for the closing credits.