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Doc/Fest: Peter de Rome | The Clapper Bored

Doc/Fest: Peter de Rome

Peter de Rome is a legend of the period when gay porn was the hobby of eccentric middle-class Englishmen, hobnobbing abroad with folk like William Burroughs, Andy Warhol and John Gielgud. Peter de Rome (the documentary) is a very loving portrait, both of the man himself, and of the time he found himself living in, as both a pornographer and avant-garde artist.

The film is focused on modern-day Peter, who splits his time between New York City and Sandwich in Kent. He is every bit as eccentric as the filmmakers must’ve hoped – he ambles about like a colonial Englishman, neither camp nor macho, but full of candour and randy anecdotes. Conversations with Peter, walking through his early life and short pornographic career, at the focus of about two thirds of the film, and they work rather well. Ethan Reid’s film is well stocked with archive material – some of which is fairly hardcore gay porn – and this lights up de Rome’s storytelling. We arrive at the premature end of Peter’s career with an all too brief reference to the AIDs scares that were gripping America, and it feels like that’s the, slightly melancholy, conclusion to the narrative.

But, for reasons unknown, the filmmakers appear to be unhappy to end on this downbeat note, and stretch the film out with three unnecessary codas. The most pointless of these is an interview with Julian Clary which was clearly arranged and shot (a boon for the film’s marketing) before realising that it didn’t comfortably fit into the narrative of the story. So, once Peter’s life story has concluded, we are then treated to a set of repetitious reflections (material is repeated almost word for word). The lack of ruthlessness in the edit suite is a shame, because the first 80 minutes of the film are very watchable, and de Rome is a fascinating subject. Unfortunately, the film gives way to tedium, as the focus of the narrative dissolves. A trip to Barcelona to allow Peter to sit in on a modern gay porn set feels particularly indulgent and unnecessary.

Overlong and indisciplined, Peter de Rome is a decent, if unexceptional, film which overreaches in the final third.

Title: Peter de Rome: The Grandfather of Gay Porn
Director: Ethan Reid
Running Time: Long, too long (about 100 or so mins, actually)

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