In Their Room: London
Travis Matthews continues his on-going short film series "In Their Room" with "In Their Room: London." Conceived as an on-going, multi-city documentary series, the shorts are intimate portrayals of gay men as they go about their lives while in their bedrooms. Matthews is able to explore a number of different issues facing gay men (or just people in general) and captures them at their most ordinary and sometimes more sensual. This involves most of the participants in various states of undress and more than one captured in the act of self-love. Matthews does not use this as titillation. Instead, it just seems like a matter-of-fact part of a gay man’s day. While Matthews is clearly interviewing his subjects, there is a sort of "fly on the wall" aspect here that seems to eliminate that clinical aspect of documentary making and instead, makes it more personal.
The London edition focuses a lot on how apps for gay dating and hookups present their own sort of obstacles. The handsome blue-eyed Ben talks about hooking up and how he tends to see the good in everyone, so he is able to establish connections fairly quickly. Shane admits to being a "good judge of character" while then discussing getting screwed over by a potential hook-up. Alex prefers the guys he meets - even for sex - to be more straight-forward than always being polite and not stating what they want. While Peitro counters with "the last thing I want is for someone to say ’can I please?’ I’m like ’what? Stick your dick in my ass, man." He declares he doesn’t want a guy to be that considerate. He knows what he wants and expects it. Sex for him is all about getting down to business. Among the other men, John the cross-dresser is one of the more fascinating subjects. At almost 80 years of age, he uses the apps not for love as you might expect, but for casual sex. "I’m getting older now, but it doesn’t mean I’ve lost my sex drive at all. I still feel as sexy as ever."
These are very interesting portraits of people we can relate to and some that we can’t. Matthews is a master at getting in close (literally and figuratively) to give us a portrayal of an aspect of gay life that has gained prominence. Whether that’s good or bad, you can judge for yourself. There is a hint of sadness to these men. As glam songwriter Tommy states, "I base a degree of my self-worth on how strangers perceive me." This is not surprising in our culture, but even within that realization, there is hope. As portrait artist Ryan affirms, "I’m looking for the love of my life. But I don’t think you’re going to find it on these sites, I think." And it’s that self-awareness that can keep gay men from falling victim to a phenomenon that can be both refreshing and disheartening in equal measure.