by Douglas Messerli
Peter de Rome (director) Double Exposure / 1969
A muscular young man in blue jeans and a baby blue T-shirt (Tom Yourk) is walking one of the Fire Island wooden planked trails, passing by a large moderne home, obviously the house of a wealthy Fire Islander. He walks to what appears to be the end of the avenue, the sign reading, “Private. Dead End.” Accordingly, he turns back to look at the house, observing a naked boy standing in a large pane glass.
He walks past the house again traveling now in the other direction, checking out the house more carefully. On the side of the large structure, at the very top, there a large oval-toped door that appears to go nowhere. The door opens inward, and the same naked figure appears there, standing for a few moments.
This Peter de Rome film from 1969, Double Exposure, it turns out is a subtle exploration of the Narcissus myth. For when the boy enters the home, checking the downstairs interior and finding no one there, he begins walking upstairs to find the boy he’s glimpsed in the window, suddenly, as he reaches the level of the second floor, becoming the same nude figure he’s seen from the street.
Strangely, accordingly, he has lured himself into the house, brought his own other being, another “exposure” of his body into his life, which results in his continued loneliness.
After opening yet another two doors and looking out at where he himself previously walked fully clothed, indeed from the second door he spots himself as he was before.
But as the upstairs boy moves down the stairs into the the now empty living room space, he is once again fully dressed, appearing as he did before entering the house. Slowly he moves out the front door, down the terraced porch and returns to the wood-planked street, walking quickly back, evidently, to where he had originally begun his voyage into a “dead-end” world where the “other” can never be touched, and his loneliness remains unassuaged.
Perhaps in order to find love he must return to a world in which he might find someone who is truly different from himself.
Los Angeles, July 27. 2021
Reprinted from World Cinema Review (July 2021).