VOD Review - Sexual Tension: Volatile

Back in February, six, Spanish-language, short films were packaged together in a bundle called Sexual Tension: Volatile. Three of the films were written and directed by Marcelo Mónaco who I didn't know. The other three were written and directed by Marco Berger (Plan B and Absent). I recently wrote a review of Berger's Absent. In March, one of Berger's short films from the bundle was posted for free on YouTube. TLA Video did this possibly to get people interested in the bundle, which can now be streamed in its entirety on TLA Video's web site.

Both Marcelo Mónaco and Marco Berger are from Argentina and all six, short films are based in that South American country. Again, Mónaco is a new name for me, but a lot of the themes and types of situations in the short films here are similar if not the same as those in Berger's previous films. Other than "Sexual Tension," the title of this bundle or collection of movies could also be "Sexual Frustration."

Each short is about 10-15 minutes long. Each focuses on two guys in one setting. One guy typically is attracted to the other and wants to have sex with that other. In some, both have that mutual attraction, but, for one reason or another, the two guys don't or can't have sex. Like with Berger's last two features, all of it paints a picture of homophobia that exists in Argentina.

Mónaco and Berger never set any of their stories or create characters that are either aware of or have access to gay bars. Despite Argentina being a majority-Catholic country and the origin of the current Pope, Pope Francis, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010. Yet, Mónaco and Berger's shorts would seem to suggest that that fact never happened.

Perhaps, Mónaco and Berger's shorts are indicative of a larger issue. The legalization of same-sex marriage doesn't mean that the everyday lives of gay men would automatically or even instantly change. The legalization doesn't mean that the opinions of straight people or opponents would instantly change.

Sexual Tension: Volatile is a push-pull, a contradiction in action, a possibility for which one reaches but never touches. For the most part, it's just voyeurism. It's one man staring or ogling another. In one short film, Mónaco visualizes the staring man's fantasies but in all the other shorts, the base and lustful desires can be read on the actor's faces. Anticipating its predominantly, gay-male audience, the filmmakers often make the audience the voyeur.

In various moments, the filmmakers make their intentions clear. Both their cameras at times lose interest in the heads of their actors. Both their cameras instead linger on medium shots of male midriffs and pubic areas, clearly titilating and teasing the possibility of showing a penis and in fact doing so in some moments.

There are really only two shorts in the bundle that are problematic and don't all together work for me. The very first short film, 'Ari' by Marcelo Mónaco and the very last short film, 'Entrenamiento' (Workout) by Marco Berger are the two that turn me off. Both play on the stereotype of a gay guy pursuing a straight guy. 'Ari' does so without the gay guy really knowing if the guy is straight for sure but 'Entrenamiento' has the gay guy know the other is straight and still pursue. It perpetuates a trope whose lesson is obvious and quite frankly is too easy a device for sexual frustration.

Three short films within the bundle don't use that device. In 'El Primo' (The Cousin) by Marco Berger, which was the one posted on YouTube, 'Los brazos rotos' (Broken Arms) by Marco Berger and 'Amor' (Honey) by Marcelo Mónaco, those three have two young guys who are genuinely attracted to each other. It's unspoken but both know it. Yet, neither can express it. Whether it's due to personal inhibition or societal pressure, we don't know, except in 'Amor' (Honey).

Unfortunately, 'Amor' (Honey) was the short I liked the least. The whole thing by the end felt like just a setup to a porn scene. The whole thing felt so contrived, and it blatantly does to the audience what most of the characters in the bundle experience. Mónaco's camera with a slow pan down and then a cut-to-black frustrates the audience wanting to see full-frontal nudity.

'El Otro' by Marcelo Mónaco is one of two shorts that I liked the most. In that one, there are only two guys and both are straight. As odd as it sounds, it does more for gay rights and acceptance than any of the others. Two young guys, Kevin and Tony, are friends who are moving furniture and talking about their girlfriends. Where the two go by the end shows the comfort and closeness that can be achieved between two men regardless of their sexuality, and it's great.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Contains Nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.

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