Nights gets back to basics,
but it's a good movie, too
Nights in Black Leather, a new
male film being released by Jaguar
Productions, defies all the
progressive steps taken by gay films
in the past year. Its story is wispy to
the point of non-existence, at least
95 per cent of the 108-minute running time is devoted to sex, and
these interludes are absolutely end-
What is even more remarkable, in
light of the foregoing, Nights in
Black Leather turns out to be a very
engrossing and entertaining film.
Its success is due to the star and the
cameraman-director. Nights in
Black Leather is what is known in
the movie industry as a star vehicle,
a story designed to showcase the
talents and attributes of the main
actor. Barbra Streisand's movies
are the most prominent example
that comes to mind.
Star vehicles are also pretty risky
business, unless built around a per-.
son with so much physical presence
that an audience's attention can be
diverted from what usually turns
out to be production deficiencies
and scripting inadequacies surrounding the venture. Nights in Black
Leather has everything riding on the
anticipated popularity of its star,
Peter Burian, and in this case, the
risk could be termed minimal.
Burian is a dark-blonde, blue-
eyed beauty that would make even
the dead rise again, with the kind of
body you have to start making plans
for when you're about 12. His ass
could be nominated for a Golden
Globes Award. The clothes (or
perhaps more appropriately,
costumes) he wears in the picture
leave nothing to the imagination.
He must have sprayed them on.
Audiences will not have much call
to use their imaginations, however,
for Burian wears little or nothing
throughout the picture.
But even monumental beauty can
lose its luster ifbadly
photographed, so Peter Burian was
fortunate to have a cameraman
whose lens practically caresses each
and every pore of his body.
Photographer Ignatio Rutkowski
has taken the ingredients of a standard fuck film and lifted them to
the level of visual art.
His work shows a strong influence
of European films, particularly
those shot by Henri Decae and
Claude Renoir. With muted colors
and judicious use of highlights in
appropriate places, there are sequences in Nights in Black Leather
that are a veritable symphony of
pictorial splendor. He even lights
his scenes in ways that disregard
probability of success, capturing
shots of exquisite beauty that many
wouldn't dare attempt.
Rutkowski's background is in
still photography. Prior to filming
Nights in Black Leather, he had
made only on 15-minute short subject. But, like Gordon Parks, who
also tackled his first movie with
Rutkowski takes chances in applying the same principles to the
motion picture form and makes
them work, with brilliant results.
The story in Nights in Black
Leather, which can be noted and
immediately forgotten, is of a German boy writing to his homeland
friends, describing sexual adventures he had in San Francisco.
These episodes include a jack-off
phone call, a casual street pickup,
an S&M encounter, a drag party,
and an afternoon he spent with two
lovers he met at a gym. These
sequences are bridged with introductory voice-over narration that
teeters on the brink of outrageous
floridity, like something remembered from a 1950 gay novel.
Ignatio Rutkowski wrote the
narration, read by the star, Peter
Burian obviously still has difficulty in mentally translating his
thoughts into fluid English because
of the relatively short time he has
lived in the U.S. This is evidenced in
both the improvised dialog and
narration. It's not a drawback to enjoying the film because of his
ingratiating handling of the
problerrii If anything, it creates
more empathy with his audience.
If we were to single out special
highlights oi Nights, they would include the blatantly erotic phone
call, the artistic sensuality of a scene
in the woods, which takes place in a
hut with transparent walls, and the
accurate subtlety of the S&M scene.
(Burian is apparently into this,
playing it at the proper depth.
Because of Burian's arian looks
and background, the S&M sequence could have fallen heir to a residue
of sinister implications, but both he
and Rutkowski have taken care to
divorce the preceedings from the
"Master Race" theory..
They confront the problem point
blank in the preceding narration,
describing one of Burian's tricks
who was into Nazi uniforms and
swastikas, and Burian didn't have
the heart to deflate by revealing that
he had voted Socialist in the last
As the S&M scene is constructed,
it does bring a time of_German
militancy "to the viewer's mind, so
perhaps the filmmakers were wise to
bring it up themselves and dispose
of it so they could get on with the
Included in the cast are Rick
ledin, Al Joffrey, Tom Webb, and
Jim Salem—all handsome and well-
built young men. They complement,
rather then counterpoint Peter
Burian, making Nights a visual
triumph for audiences with a fundamental interest in sex and bodies.
This is probably as good a time as
any to introduce an inter-related
subject, especially as it applies to
Nights in Black Leather and several
other films 1 have reviewed lately.
Recently I was accused by a
producer of male films of taking
these movies too seriously, that they
weren't meant to be judged in
devastating detail. His statement
was occasioned by, as you may have
guessed, the decidedly mixed review
his latest effort had received.
I think the allegation is well foun--
ded. It is true, I have reviewed gay
films in some detail, but I disagree
with the contention they were taken
too seriously. When the lights go up
after a screening, it isn't much fun
having to affect a wan smile because
what I have just seen might as well
have had a shell with Coast Federal
Savings superimposed over it.
If these were movies of someone's
summer vacation, inflicted on you
without charge in their living room,
it would be tactful to say how enjoyable they were. It's altogether
another matter when the films are
shown to the public, whose
patronage is solicited on the basis of
product quality and who have to pay
a steep price for the privilege of
Reviews of films are strictly one
person's opinion, replete with his
preferences, prejudices, and laced
with his experience as a moviegoer.
There will be as many differing
opinions as there are reviewers.
Charles Champlin, movie critic for
the L.A. Times, put the whole subject of reviewing in the proper perspective recently by stating: "A
critic can't lead audiences to movies
they don't care to see or keep them
away from those they do. But he
can, if he's lucky, help them to
know what they're going to see and,
if he's very lucky, sometimes persuade them to take chances."
It is primarily because of the high
admission price charged for gay
movies that I have reviewed them in
such detail. I believe that the
prospective audience should be
made completely aware of the commodity they are buying, so they can
evaluate for themselves whether it is
worth the money to be spent. The
films are judged by those that
preceded them in the particular
genre; naturally some will be better
and some will not, but again, that
will be only one opinion.
The producers 'seriously' intend
that the movies return a profit to
justify the investment, so audiences
should also be allowed to 'seriously*'
select the one they want to see, and
this selective process will (or should)
be on the basis of quality. That is
why we will continue to take the
films 'too seriously', if only as a service to our readers.
In the instant case.of Nights in
Black Leather, audiences can be entertained without any involvement
and will have gotten their money's
worth, but the fact remains that it is
a superficial movie. The surfaces
are visually glossy, beautiful, ornate, and it's all designed to divert
attention from the emptiness underneath. Perhaps that's why I'm
furious with myself for liking it so
much for what it does achieve, instead of disliking it from an
awareness of the film it could have
Both Peter Burian and Ignatio
Rutkowski have a talent for making
good movies, but they have used
only a fraction of it in their current
effort. Two artists with the
capability wo working in marble are
instead sculpting with papier
mache. We hope their next project
exercises all their obvious talents,
not just a small portion.
The above article was taken from
"THE ADVOCATE" at the re-
quest of our advertiser.
King & Queen Zues,
Judges in Miss Gay Lake Charles
- Genger, Jerry Clark, Charlene
Barbaria, Harris Settly and - ?