US Filmmaker Travis Mathews is a professional voyeur.
His documentary movies all focus on gay men and their intimacy and are very raw and explicit. His most successful project to date is ‘Interior Leather Bar’ where he, and a somewhat obsessed James Franco, pieced together what they thought maybe the content of the chunk of William Friedkin’s 1980 gay classic ‘Cruising’ that the Censors insisted on being deleted. Before this however, Mathews embarked on series of videos, that have now been released under the banner of ‘In Their Room’.
The first ‘episode’, a 20 minute short, was filmed in Mathews hometown of San Francisco where armed with just a simple video camera he visits 8 men alone in their bedrooms. Some are clothed, some naked, some are silent or reticent to share, whilst others are happy to expose every intimate detail of their thoughts about love and sex. Although it is always mainly the latter.
The second film, shot in 2011, continues to voyeuristically document what goes on in the minds and bedrooms of urban gays. Now in Berlin, Mathews lingers on the tension and circular nature between intimacy and loneliness by documenting a handful of gay men as they troll the web looking for hook-ups or love. It is the only film in which he actually features a coupled pair, and is probably the most explicit of the three films.
The third and final film made last year focuses on 8 gay men in London. I’m not sure if it was deliberate on Mathew’s part, but the bed-sitting rooms of his subjects this time around look decidedly squalid. Again he manages to draw out the men’s most private thoughts and aspirations as they talk aimlessly as he films them doing the banalest daily tasks. It is also the one episode when the vulnerability and loneliness of urban gay men really starts to seep through.
The work is an interesting experiment, which although shares nothing new with us, at least gives us a moment to reflect on parts of our lives that many gay men have difficulty discussing. The series is definitely not for everyone, but at least you don’t have to have a Masters Degree in Counselling Psychology (like Mathews has) to appreciate it.
Out December 2015