Director of Photography:
Tomás Pérez Silva
Running time: 100 minutes
Tensión sexual, Volumen 1: Volátil
Didier Costet, who co-produced Beauty, a 2011 film in which a middle-aged man from rural South Africa stalks one of his daughter’s male friends, which was well-received in the country, is also the production muscle behind this anthology of short films about gay attraction. Only two directors took part in this project, which accounts for the generally homogeneous tone, one that is usually missing from anthology films with a larger variety of voices and visions.
The two directors are Marcelo Mónaco, who has helmed raunchy films from the sexually explicit Porno de autor to the gay porn film Cum-eating Rancheros; and the more commercially oriented Marco Berger, whose films, like Ausente, have dealt much more with tension and lust than sexual release.
While Berger has stated in the past that he is often conscious of making gay films for a straight audience, Sexual Tension: Volatile is very clearly targeted at a gay audience, as the tension is not really between the characters but rather from the side of the viewer, who wonders whether there will be a spark between two characters, even when such a turn of events would be narratively implausible.
The film consists of six short films:
Ari, by Mónaco
El Primo (The Cousin), by Berger
El Otro (The Other), by Mónaco
Los Brazos Rotos (Broken Arms), by Berger
Amor (Love), by Mónaco
Entrenamiento (Workout), by Berger
Each is around 15 minutes in length, and the film ends on a very playful note, just as the tension is about to be broken.
The opening short is very silly, with a young twink who goes to get his first tattoo falling in lust with tattoo artist Ari and fantasising about him. The tattoo parlour looks like little more than an empty studio, and the fantasies are nothing to get excited about.
It is only by the time of Berger’s short film, El Primo, that we can sense it might be worth our time to watch the entire compilation; in fact, this may be the best film of the entire bunch, although Mónaco’s Amor comes a close second . The object of affection is a boy who never speaks (something that can work wonders in a film of this length), but whose crotch outline seems to be everywhere the lustful visitor (Javier De Pietro, who has matured physically and professionally since his stint in Berger’s Ausente) casts his eyes. Berger’s films are often interested in crotch outlines — in swim trunks (“Platero” in another anthology film, Cinco; and Ausente) or in underwear (El reloj; Plan B) — and have become a trope in his canon. De Pietro, who sometimes pushes his glasses back up his nose to see better, conveys some nervous energy, and in this case his expressionless face helps the film a great deal by allowing him to act as a screen for our projection of anxiety.
El Otro demonstrates that Mónaco can produce some gorgeous moments, as two best friends Kevin and Tony talk about their sexual escapades. Kevin is complaining that he isn’t getting sex from his current girlfriend, but Tony, having just seen what a big member his friend is sporting, wants to help him out by showing him positions and suggesting phrases to help things along. The catch is, Kevin has to try it on Tony. The actions are not always credible, neither is the blocking, but there are two long takes, both two-shots, that look beautiful and show directorial promise, even though the camera more often objectifies the two boys completely by focusing on their crotches throughout.
Los Brazos Rotos is a bizarre inclusion and seems too artistic even for a gay audience. There is no dialogue, although only the arms of the main character are (more or less) supposed to be broken, and not the soundtrack. Berger shows his cinematographic range, as he did in El Primo, by playing more with shadows and darkness than co-director Mónaco; however, shots like one in the bathroom, which shows a man being washed by his male nurse while we look at it in a mirror, with a bottle of shampoo strategically placed to obscure our view of his private parts, seems almost amateurishly titillating. We only realise the intimacy of the situation afterwards, when the nurse does, but while it is going on, you may just want to hit the fast-forward button.
Amor certainly has the best-looking pair in the entire film. On a bed and breakfast in the countryside, a youthful man and girlfriend are escaping dreary city life by sleeping in late. When she is on the phone to her mother, she asks the manager of the place to wake up her sleepy boyfriend, but in the bedroom the two accidentally touch each other, without being repulsed by it. It is a beautiful, innocent moment that creates tension and questions, none of which is properly resolved, but these issues don’t seem at all misplaced.
Berger’s final film, Entrenamiento, sees two men very interested in building muscle spend all their time together. At first, we may think they are boyfriends, but they soon start sexting with girls who demand to see more and more skin. When they take pictures of each other, from up close, we question their sexuality even more. However, as in all the other films, no one is ever shown to be hard, so perhaps the situations are as sexless as they seem and it is only the viewer whose tension the title refers to.
This is the first volume in what is supposed to be a series, and a second collection of shorts, titled “Violetas”, about attraction between women, was released early in 2013. What the title’s “volatile” means in this case is wholly unclear. All the crotch shots are probably meant to entice us, but that would make this a kind of porn, without the sex, and that’s not really any fun, is it?