Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Childhood sexual abuse meets the cult of American macho in Travis Mathews' DISCREET

Possibly as dark, dismal and depressing a movie as you are likely to encounter, DISCREET, the new film from Travis Mathews (writer and co-director of Interior. Leather Bar.) is also worth seeing for a number of reasons -- starting with the fact of its remarkable subtlety. 

Mr. Mathews (shown at right) doesn't slap us in the face with anything. And considering the subjects he's dealing with -- childhood sexual abuse, revenge, murder, suicide, prostitution, group sex in blindfolds, and homosexualty trying its damndest to disguise itself as the activity of really macho men -- this is quite a feat. Instead, Mathews parcels out his information via visuals and sounds, memories and current activity that come to us in small, oblique shards that we must piece together.

Piece them we do. And, boy, is the finished product ugly. 

The movie's non-hero, Alex (played in properly dark, if one-note fashion by Jonny Mars, above), is carrying around a load of traumatic memory. Instead of trying to work this out via more usual routes -- a therapist, perhaps -- he has taken to arranging oddball group sex sessions between men (below), while simultaneously stealing their money;

hiring a young man to do who-knows-what with the very fellow, now old and infirm (Bob Swaffar, at left, below), who molested Alex in his younger days; fellating and/or jacking off a local wealthy Hispanic man in his sauna (João Federici, shown at left, two photos down); and then onwards to actions that are much, much worse.

The breadth (if not the depth) of the despicable goings-on here is near breathtaking, and yet Mathews gives it to us as though these were merely every-day events. (Perhaps, for those engaging in them, they are.) This makes it seem all the more awful. Intercut with the degradation is the interesting web site of a young and pretty Asian woman with whom Alex seems to want to connect.

Yet despite this tiny morsel of hope, along with the attempt of Alex's mother to share her son's life in some small way, our boy is dead set on a course of major destruction. Throughout, the filmmaker never strays from his oblique style, dark content and refusal to provide us with one bit of the usual positive spin. The result is one of the more unnerving, queasy-making movies in recent memory. And yet, due to Mathews' subtle, indirect approach, TrustMovies does not remember a single moment of overt violence, blood nor gore to be seen. Yet all of this is present, somehow, via the unspoken "threat."

Discreet opens this Friday, June 1, in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Music Hall 3 and simultaneously will be available via VOD. The movie is certainly worth a look -- if you're ready for something strange and about as far from feel-good as you can imagine.

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