Discreet (2017)


Turning his gaze on vibrational rhythms and the Texan underworld, Travis Mathew’s Discreet is a broken portrait of a broken man.

Upstream Color

by Mark Wilshin


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Channelling the YouTube aesthetic of vibrational rhythms, Travis Mathews’ Discreet is a stream of consciousness exposing gay life in Texas. In the run-up to the 2016 election, it’s a toxic soup of talk radio hatespeak in which gay men, married, closeted, discreet or on the down low, meet in porn shop backrooms and motels for anonymous gratification.

Discreet follows Alex (Jonny Mars), a fractured soul in white sunglasses who finds some kind of peace filming freeways, until that is his mother reveals she lied to him. This spurs Alex to go off in search of the man who abused him as a child. Only now his abuser is crippled and helpless, his revenge impulse gives way to more complex emotions. Despite taking more than a passing interest in high school boy Zac, Alex is able to keep his quagmire of emotions under control. Until his phone calls to Gentle Rhythms YouTuber Mandy (Atsuko Okatsuka) turn into harassment and she threatens to call the police.

Filmed in long wide takes on a minimal budget, Discreet reveals its narrative strands simultaneously but elusively, creating a rhythm to its montage that slowly reveals Alex’s character as well as his fractured state of mind. With its fatalistic story of the cycle of abuse, LGBT director Travis Mathews risks revisiting the hopefully outdated conflation of gay and paedophile. But with its headlong descent into abuse and murder, Discreet swings a wrecking ball through rural Texas, closing off the past of crippled white patriarchy but also hijacking its future. With a staccato pace and a dissonant sound design, Matt=hews’ film is a choppy stream. But as one peculiar vision dissolves into the next, it remains enigmatically discreet.

Discreet is now showing at the 67th Berlin Film Festival

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