DVD Review – I Want Your Love3 min read
If you’re easily shocked, Travis Mathews’ feature film, I Want Your Love, is probably something you should avoid. This is the film that has set tongues wagging and pulses racing all over the world, except perhaps in Australia where is has been banned. The reason for this is simple; it is entirely uncompromising with its graphic portrayal of gay sex. Indeed, the sex is real, and there are no censor-pleasing cutaways to protect your innocence.
The story centres on Jesse (Jesse Metzger) who is having something of an existential crisis (the equivalent of a midlife crisis for twenty-somethings). The reason for this is that his grand plans of a successful career in the city by the bay have not borne fruit and therefore he is about to leave San Francisco and return home. With his departure imminent, the reality of leaving the life he has created behind is weighing heavily on his mind; in particular the impact of the relationships he has experienced in San Francisco, both platonic and sexual, has defined who he has become. Is he really ready to leave that behind? Have they been enriching or toxic? Will moving back home make a difference? Over the course of a couple of days Jesse has to confront the realities of who he is, and what he wants to become; realities that are inescapable now his friends and lovers are about to gather for his leaving party.
And then there’s the sex; lots of sex. With the use of not just realistic, but real, sex scenes, I Want Your Love was bound to capture the attention of audiences worldwide, just as Shortbus (Cameron Mitchell, 2006) did before it; and let’s face it, there is nothing that triggers debate in the film world like the topic of sex. The press and PR value for a so-called ‘ground breaking’ sexually explicit film is incalculable, but can you apply such a cynical motivation to the production of I Want Your Love? Honestly, it’s difficult to tell. The treatment of sex in Mathews’ film is more contemplative than that of Shortbus, which lends the impression that Mathews perhaps has a more refined and artistic sensibility; the outcome is certainly more sophisticated than Shortbus (not that sophistication was what Cameron Mitchell was aiming for). The cinematography of these scenes in I Want Your Love is unquestionably graceful, achieving a distinctly beautiful and imaginative quality. Furthermore the acting performances are undeniably better than you would expect from an ordinary ‘sex film’ (remember the atrocity that was Wrecked (Shumanski & Shumanski, 2009)?), this is primarily because Mathews has created a film that, luckily, intends on having more depth than a ‘sex film’. Unfortunately I can’t say that I Want Your Love is entirely successful in this endeavour; that is to say that the narrative is far too weak to provide an effective counterbalance to prevent the sex scenes from entering the realms of gratuitousness. Jesse’s ‘crisis’ and the peripheral interpersonal dynamics of his friendship base are simply not interesting enough and so function only on a perfunctory level, where with a little more development of the writing and analysis of the characters I Want Your Love could have been elevated in to some truly original territory. The groundwork is there, it just never fully delivers.
With all credit to Mathews, however, this film does have a very strong sense of visual style; perhaps not to same degree as Keep The Lights On (Sachs, 2012), but certainly enough to be extremely effective. Mathews has an eye for shot composition, and the cinematography is a huge asset to this film, particularly the shots of the empty streets of San Francisco, which take on a mythic quality comparable to the Noir tradition; likewise, as mentioned, the sex scenes, which luckily convey the sense of intimacy rather than the sense of ’Wham, bam, thank you, man.’
Overall, I Want Your Love does not offer a huge amount of nourishment for film discourse in general, and calling it a ‘Landmark’ in Queer Cinema is perhaps also an overstatement; but what is does do, elegantly and thoughtfully, is to push the boundaries of using real sex to achieve something more mature than its predecessors, adding a much needed injection of artistry in to the realms of queer eroticism.
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Click here to read our interview with Travis Mathews.
I Want Your Love is available to buy here.