Michael Langan continues his conversation with Travis Mathews. He talks about the first reactions to Interior. Leather Bar both in the press and from the audience.
After our last communication, which vividly expressed the intensity and craziness of being at Sundance, Travis admitted to having an “emotional hangover”. It’s understandable that he would experience that, but he had to get on with the business of showing his film to various audiences, talking about it endlessly and dealing with people’s reception of it. That in itself proved to have its effects on Travis.
It’s basically like being in a pinball machine. I knew that this film was going to be polarizing, but grasping that as you’re making it or editing in isolation is a whole different thing from experiencing the press and the individual responses that have been wildly hot or cold. At the moment I’m high on the New York Times piece that praised Interior. Leather Bar first among the others from the festival (which in and of itself is crazy). I saw a film called Concussion, which should be on the top of that list. But to have the love of the Times is amazing, to have our little experimental film be in Manohla Dargis’ highlight reel is something that I never expected in my wildest dreams.
Dargis called Interior. Leather Bar “one of the sharpest, best surprises of the festival” and described the movie as a “serious yet playful deconstruction of the representation of homosexuality”. As Travis admitted, not everyone has been so generous in their praise.
We’ve had horrible reviews too. Variety said it was “infuriating” and made some snarky remark that after the Berlin Film Festival our film would disappear into obscurity. At this point I’ve stopped looking at reviews and interviews for the most part. It predictably screws with your emotions, even when they’re good.
Apart from the press, of course, there are audiences – real people you might say – also reacting to the film, having their say, often directly to Travis, something that a lot of directors don’t have to face. Responses have also been mixed.
I’m still feeling out the audience response, but it’s playing out much like the press. Weirdly, it seems like women are the most excited and responsive to the film. Gay men in particular are falling into different camps without a lot of grey. I’ve gotten hate mail, which is fine, but one was of the sort that accused me of setting gay rights on a backward trend, which is the last thing I want to do, and not at all what I see this film doing. Yes, I want all of those conversations and the dialogue that every filmmaker says they want to have, but it stings to think that, for some, this is received as a backward-looking film. Almost all of my work has been with the implicit or direct intention of doing the opposite. Some are going to get it and some won’t, and with those who don’t I’m going to be engaged in a sometimes heated debate for a while to come.
Check back to read more about what Travis Mathews has been up to at the Sundance Film Festival.