I’m constantly reminding myself how important it is to shift my brain and see with the eyes of the audience from an era. I can’t watch porn from 1973 with 2019 eyes. I can’t consider modern heteronormative #ConsentCulture when I’m diving into a period piece from the gay culture of 1970s San Francisco. I’d never heard of Peter Berlin before diving into Nights In Black Leather. By the end of the film, I understood his appeal. However, it took me a while to get there.
Director Ignatio Rutkowski’s approach to filmmaking took me on a trip that was at times hard to hear or see what was happening. I have a different level of expectations for the cinematography of films from the ’70s. It was the director’s choice to film sex scenes through tent screens or to feature conversation scenes from across the street (making the dialogue practically inaudible) that left me frustrated. I really wanted to get into the story of this German tourist (Peter Berlin) from the start, but there was a lot of noise in the first sex scene.
The phone sex scene, more importantly learning what gets Peter off, sets the tone for the film. From the vantage point of an awkward (knee height) camera angle, Peter walks into his apartment, puts on a record, turns on the TV, and then takes a phone call. That’s a lot of noise for my ears to sift through, but sussing out the dialogue with the person on the other end of the call was worth it.
I’ve never been a part of the cruising culture that seemed natural in the film’s 1973 San Francisco setting. It’s because I’m not familiar with that culture that Peter initially struck me as too aggressive and borderline threatening. (That’s what I mean when I say it took me a while to get there.) It wasn’t until the third scene (which I won’t spoil for you, watch for yourselves at this link) that I began to see that he was maybe just a Daddy. “This is fucking hot!”, I said out loud to the screen as I watched things heat up between Peter and his newly anointed sub (have you watched it yet?).
The takeaway from watching NIBL is to pick up on those signs sent by the universe that highlight our desires. In Peter’s case, it came in the form of an unexpected phone call that ascended into mutual masturbation with his caller. That call set him on a path to seek more of what aroused him. Peter’s arousal tourism happened in chance meetings on the street, in a restroom, and at a party.
If you’re a cisgender heterosexual man, what are some ways that you can learn more about what you desire? I’m not talking about pursuing desires, just understanding what you desire and the arousal of others (even if you’re not attracted to them). I encourage everyone to watch porn. If you have an image of porn that repulses you, I encourage you to watch better porn, I encourage you to #PayForYourPorn
While NIBL isn’t my favorite film, I do love the story. I love the raw erotic energy that stems from getting to the root of our desires. I love the hedonistic approach to Peter’s arousal tourism. I love being able to see what the magic of 1970s San Francisco must have felt like. I’ve already asked my lover if she wants to watch this with me on our next date. This might be a good date night movie for you as well! Leave a comment below after you watch it. Enjoy!