Last week my interview with director Ethan Reid discussing his recent film, Fragments: The Incomplete Films of Peter de Rome, was published online by Glass magazine so I thought I’d add a link to it here and write a little more about him here as, in my opinion, at least, Peter de Rome is one of the most fascinating figures in film-making whose output (which is vast and remarkable) has recently been rediscovered and, only now, gaining the acclaim and exposure it deserves. And also Ethan Reid’s film about him is an accomplished and affectionate piece that is a valuable documentary providing a fascinating overview and exploration of de Rome’s life and times.
Sometimes referred to as the “Grandfather of Gay Porn”, de Rome is a prolific film-maker and a pioneer, having made around 100 films (some finished, some not … hence the “Fragments” in the title of Reid’s film), de Rome, now aged 88, is finally being recognised as one of the most important gay film-makers of all time. British-born, but having moved to the US in the late 1950s to work on a film project for David O Selznick that stalled, de Rome took up directing for his own amusement and pleasure and then his friends’, making short films, beneath the censor’s radar, throughout the ’60s until the ’70s.
And despite winning awards, (Best Short in the 1971 Wet Dream Film Festival in Amsterdam for Hot Pants) and being reviewed (bizarrely) in the Financial Times and the Times, and his collection, The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome (released in 1973 and comprising six short films) which opened at the Lincoln Art Theatre in New York, and which was subsequently screened in all the major cities in the US and influencing film-makers such as Jack Deveau (who he was to collaborate with) and porn-legend Kristen Bjorn, until recently, de Rome’s film career and output had drifted into obscurity, with many of his films having never been seen. This situation was reversed this year when he was re-discovered by the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and all his output is now all included in the BFI archive.
His films, which centre around hardcore and explicit imagery, explore his sexual and erotic fascinations with an unabashed aplomb and confidence and yet which also have a dreamy, experimental wry and witty quality which lends them a transcendental quality rather than being purely material to be used to arouse (although, of course, this function is not to be derided or belittled). De Rome claims to have been uninfluenced by any other films, does, however admit to being impressed by Jean Genet’s Chant d’Amour and there is a strong Maya Deren-esque quality to some of his work – especially Daydreams from a Crosstown Train (1972) and Double Exposure (1969).
I am posting some more images from his films that Glass couldn’t use below. All images are courtesy of the BFI who have produced a DVD The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome which also contains Ethan Reid’s Fragments.
Hot Pants. (US 1971, Peter de Rome).
Daydreams from a Crosstown Bus. (US, 1972, Peter de Rome).
Scopo. (US, 1966, Peter de Rome).
The Fire Island Kids. (1970, US, Peter de Rome).
Peter de Rome in London this year.