Marco Berger made his name with gay themed flicks like Plan B and the Berlin Teddy award-winning feature Absent. For Sexual Tension: Volatile he’s teamed up with Marcelo Monaco – who has a background in porn – to create six short films (each directors helmed three) all themed around men getting close in a variety of situations, where the sexual heat gets turned up even if they never fully get in on.
It’s a neat little idea, but as with many anthologies, some of the shorts are better than others, although thankfully there’s more good than bad. Things kick off with Ari, about a young man who heads to a tattooist for the first of a series of appointments to create a design on his stomach. The intimacy of having another man’s hands on him stirs things and he starts to fall for the tattooist, but does the other man realise what’s going on? It’s a neat little short that doesn’t add up to an awful lot, but certainly manages to create a sense of sexual tension.
The Cousin is about a nerdy guy who goes to visit a relative and ends up sharing a room with another young man. The bookish chap finds it increasingly difficult not to stare at his new friend’s bulge, which seems to be constantly on display, but tries to keep his feeling to himself. In terms of creating sexual tension, this is probably the strongest of the bunch, with the short building a real sense of something going on between the men, but neither one knowing what it is. It’s interesting and intriguing and many will warm to that sense of not being sure about someone else and whether you can make a move or not.
The Other One (El Otro) is about two young, laddish friends who start talking about sex with women. However one of them has a problem, his dick has grown (don’t ask me why, it just has, apparently) and women push him away before he can actually consummate the act. He thinks it’s because they’re scared of the size, but his mate reckons it’s because he’s too quick and rough, and that’s what puts the women off. They end up in their underpants, showing one another how to be more tender in the sack. The set-up is a bit ridiculous, but it does a good job of playing with the audience as to whether it’s a ruse by one of the men to get closer to the other, if the entire thing is essentially foreplay – ‘we’re straight so we need to go through this giant fiction to have sex’ – or indeed if they really are just teaching each other how to be better at straight sex.
Los Bravos Loto (Broken Arms) has no dialogue at all and is about an injured man who’s being looked after by a nurse. During a changeover of carers, he spies on his new male nurse getting into his scrubs, and then has to be showered by him. The short plays on the intimacy of the moment, never really letting us know whether either of them is getting some sort of thrill from what’s going on. Indeed it’s more about teasing the audience with what we do and don’t see and our reaction to an intimate moment between two men that’s technically more about caring than anything sexual.
In Love (Amor) a man goes on a short break with his girlfriend. After chatting with the guy who runs the holiday place, a mix-up ends with one almost touching the other’s penis. Problems with the plumbing then result in the two guys showering together. As with some of the earlier shorts, the film deliberately withholds whether there really is sexual tension between the men, or if they see everything as innocent. Indeed as with Los Bravos Loto, there’s a good chance it’s the viewer who’s supplying the eroticism to the film, which is underlined by the film ending just as we’re about to get an eye full.
The final film is Workout (Entrenamiento), which starts out with casual eroticism of two guys working out together, and the touching and intimacy of that. Later on they end up taking sexy photos of one another to send to some women, which ends up escalating until one wants to take a shot of the other’s erection. Workout toys with whether one guy is actually playing with the other to get closer to them sexually, but it tries a few too many of the same tricks as the earlier shorts, such as stopping just as things are heating up and being coy about whether the people in the movie are finding something sexual or not.
Indeed, one of the anthology’s biggest flaws is a sense of repetition. While the likes of The Cousin and Workout do a good job of creating a sense of erotic tension, the films often do it in the same way, asking the same questions and often with the same rather ambiguous conclusion. Individually each one works, but it’s a shame that they couldn’t have explored more aspects of sexual tension as while they’re all very different on the surface, underneath they’re thematically pretty similar.
That said, it’s an interesting watch and a good idea, even if it doesn’t add up to as much as it could have. There are some pretty sexy moments and some of the shorts really do manage to create tension, partly by being a bit of a tease so that you see a lot and not much all at the same time.
This is billed as Volume 1, so hopefully we’ll get another compilation of shorts soon – although perhaps with a little bit more variety next time.
Overall Verdict: An interesting selection of pretty sexy shorts which do suffer a little from being thematically repetitious, but still manage to create sexual tension – whether that’s in the characters or in the viewer.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac