I Want Your Love
Dir: Travis Mathews
US: 71 min • Naked Sword / Peccadillo Pictures • June 28 2013
John Preston reviews
Travis Mathew’s first non-documentary film and feature, the naturalistic I Want Your Love, is an intimate study of self and place in a modern day city and like the similar (but more choreographed) Shortbus before it, it has run into problems with the censors. Already banned in Australia because of its explicit ‘real’ sex scenes, of which there are many, it’s doubtless there are more censors who will scream with horror and cite potential corruption without ever seeing a frame. The problem with this is not the sex, of course, it’s that the noise surrounding it can potentially overshadow everything else and in this instance that would be a huge shame as this is actually a quiet but powerful film.
Protagonist Jesse (new comer, Jesse Metzger) is a thirty something gay man, a financially struggling artist who, after a decade of living there, can no longer afford to reside in an increasingly expensive San Francisco. He decides, albeit with severe doubts, that he will return to his culturally bereft hometown in the Midwestern state of Ohio where he could be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, rather than competing for funds and space in an over saturated San Fran art market. Or is that just wishful thinking? We hear messages from Jesse’s bewildered father regarding his son’s imminent return and see Jesse’s equally lost reaction, neither men truly knowing the other. I Want Your Love documents Jesse’s last 48 hours in the city as he reminisces about an old boyfriend, says goodbye to friends and sleeps with old and new lovers. But the most affecting scenes are those of the morning after with close ups of delicate, poppy tattoos, pale skin and excessive body and facial hair interjected with awkward conversations of misplaced intimacy.
Beauty is found in the small details of imperfections whether it be a grubby ceiling lamp or smeared shots of night club exteriors. None of the protagonists in I Want Your Love owns property and this is the San Francisco of cheap rents and vintage stores (of the old fashioned kind before Hipsters and Instagram changed the meaning of the word), and even the excellent soundtrack, mainly provided by retro-future electro ‘Italians Do It Better’ acts Glass Candy and The Chromatics crackles and could come from any of the last 4 decades. There isn’t even a sub-plots involving mobile phones, a miracle in itself. It’s the anti-city that capitalism forgot and which is rarely portrayed, especially in a ‘gay’ context.
These are men (women appear but none have a main role or purpose, one of few criticisms) mainly in their thirties, predominately artists who could be described as floundering; emotionally and professionally. Brontez and Wayne both provide excellent support as Jesse’s closet friends with Brontez in particular getting the juiciest, funniest dialogue covering bath houses, New York versus San Fran (instead of the aggression of the NY work ethic he prefers the ‘let’s smoke a joint and talk about it for the next ten years’ attitude of SF) and the pros of being a pro (he’s not one). The sex scenes are graphic, sweaty, fun and darkly lit. They are also brilliantly acted (or staged) and show a variety of differently shaped men who are proud and confident whether big of belly, skinny, very hairy or smaller than we’re used to seeing in more traditional ‘gay’ films that often reek of self -loathing.
There is a lot of sex in I Want Your Love, at just over 70 minutes this is a short film with a third of it being cock and balls, not excessive exactly but please don’t come to this film expecting just that. Mathews’ depiction of gay men, not exactly young anymore, and facing the potential consequences of living an ‘authentic’ art life is a moving and sensual with unexpected hints of optimism. This may be a small film but it’s a significant and moving one and importantly it’s more than just explicit ‘queer cinema’, let’s hope it can escape the confines of it.