VQFF 2015: Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn an unreasonably inspiring profile

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      Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn (U.K.)

      Imagine Michael Powell as a size queen with an 8mm camera and you’ll end up with something like Peter de Rome.

      It turns out that the impish subject of this unreasonably inspiring profile—surely the first and only documentary about porn that doesn’t end with everyone addicted, convicted of murder, or dead—actually worked for the great British filmmaker during his apprenticeship in the post-war U.K. film industry.

      The remarkably sprightly 89-year-old also did his time with British Lion, Rank, and Alexander Korda before taking off to New York in the ‘50s at David O. Selznick’s request. There, he eventually pursued a quiet interest in beefcake during his off-hours from Paramount’s publicity department.

      Inspired to get a little more ambitious with his hobby after seeing Jean Genet’s agony-drenched “Un chant d’amour”, de Rome made dozens of 8mm films, frequently documenting, with unwavering artfulness, his own shame-free pursuit and capture of the day’s game, usually a black guy, often “straight”.

      Though it was never meant for anyone besides friends and partners passing through Manhattan’s queer underground, de Rome’s gorgeously-wrought home-erotica caught the eye of William Burroughs, Andy Warhol, even John Gielgud, who went cruising in NY with the gentlemanly expat. His feature length films, Adam & Yves and The Destroying Angel are rightly considered to be masterpieces, while his entire canon is now safely housed with the British Film Institute.

      That event in 2007 occasioned the making of this, the feelgood hit of the summer if you’re up for a lot of tenderly photographed cock and a visit with a stately British homo.

      Thank goodness that de Rome, who died last year, was still around to tell his own story, which also includes cameos by Edgar Allen Poe (really), Derek Jarman, Julian Clary, and Greta Garbo—whose last ever appearance on film, incredibly, was captured by this queer little fellow from England. Indeed, de Rome comes off as the type of effortlessly magical person to whom remarkable things just happen. He’s adorable. This film is adorable.

      And de Rome’s thoughts on the erotic, which inform his own aesthetic, are worth hearing.

      “Expectation is to infinity as completion is to limitation,” he says.”It should be clear from this that I’m a long believer in the techniques and values of arousal.”

      Imagine trying to say that at the AVN awards.

      Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn screens at International Village on August 15 (9:15 p.m.) as part of the 2015 Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

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