We meet the lead character of I Want Your Love, Jesse, as he is forlornly preparing to leave San Francisco. The film is notable for its range and volume of explicit gay sex scenes, yet Travis Mathews is also impressive at evoking the natural dynamics of a group and the deep comfort friendship, flirtation and sexual contact can provide at times of uncertainty, and at other times, many other times…
We spoke to the director, whose masters in counseling psychology is evident through the enlightened and caring ways his characters interact, whatever they happen to be doing.
GFW: Why did you choose the story of Jesse to tell?
Travis Mathews: I wanted to shed light on big cities where gay people go to find community and explore who they are but which are becoming so expensive that people, if they’re not hugely ambitious and on a path to make a lot of money, can’t afford to stay.
Is anyone really having as much sex as the characters in your film?
Sex is important to everyone, whether they’re having it or not, and with young gay men in San Francisco it’s definitely an everyday part of life. It wasn’t something I wanted to shy away from or be ashamed of showing in a pretty graphic and honest way.
Does it bother you that everybody asks why you included real sex?
It doesn’t bother me because it gives me a chance to talk about why this is a place that I return to with my filmmaking. My main interest has been around intimacy between men and trying to get to a kind of realism and honesty in my work. We’ve all seen a million movies in which people with very hot bodies have very hard passionate sex but there’s this whole continuum with sexuality that I think rarely gets seen. There’s to my mind a wealth of things for us to look at and discover and play with as filmmakers. I’m more interested in the others ways in which sex is experienced, for example, the playful ways, the silly ways, the uncomfortable and the awkward – the ways that say so much about the two people and ultimately the story that’s being told.
Did your actors have to do a lot of work off camera to get to a place where they were comfortable having sex on camera?
I do a documentary series called In Their Room that sometimes features sex and I was able to show that to the guys interested in working with me so they were on the same page. That was one of the good things about this film. We were all in it for the same reasons and we all developed a really nice camaraderie. I encouraged the guys who would be having sex to go on dates where they could develop some quick intimacy.
James Franco shows his support for the film.
The film is banned in Australia. Are there any more developments on that?
I’ve heard that they might be looking at that system in the next year or two and making it less arcane and conservative and – to my mind – hypocritical. But at the moment I think nothing is happening.
Do you see yourself as an activist for gay cinema?
Sure, yeah. I’ve been making movies that my 15-year-old self would have loved to see. I grew up in the country and didn’t have cable or the internet. It can be very isolating when your only depictions of gay life seem very superficial and removed from average everyday existence.
What does the future have in store for you?
I’m touring different festivals with Interior Leather Bar (co-directed by James Franco) and In Their Room: London. My main focus is on curating my next feature with my creative partner Keith Wilson. The main protagonist of that is a very young gay man with cerebral palsy and I’m happy to say it will be my first film with actual female characters in it. I think it’s going to be a step forward for me in terms of filmmaking, budget and the scope of what I’m doing. There will be themes familiar to anyone who knows my work but I’m not going to have such explicit content to warrant being banned in other countries again.
Jesse Metzger as Jesse. Photo: Peccadillo.
'I Want You Love' is released in cinemas from Friday.
Main image by Bryan Darling