Sexual Tension: Volatile

TLA Releasing,

Marco Berger,
Marcelo Monaco

Lucas Lagré,
Mario Verón,
Javier De Pietro, Lautaro Machaca, Maximiliano Franco, Leo Martínez,
Guido Gastaldi,
Jair Toledo,
Santiago Caamaño, Hernan Munoa, Antonia De Michelis, Francisco Ortiz,
Eva Benito,
Jorge Carossia,
Fede Guascs

Unrated, 100 minutes

by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online February, 2013

Movie reviewing has its ups and downs. Sometimes you get to discover a masterpiece, other times you waste two hours of your life that you will never get back. The greatest delights occur when you expect one film and then find a different one instead. Something refreshingly different, instead of the same-old same-old. After reading the back of the DVD box of Sexual Tension: Volatile, I assumed I was just going to be watching a bunch of soft porn vignettes. Instead I found an often hilarious look at gay guy – straight guy attractions, “straight” guy horseplay, and lots of sexual tension. The key word here is tension. The film is a perpetual tease and hence comes its charm.

In the first segment, Ari, a rather homely young man gets his first tattoo. He has a major crush on the tattoo artist. While being inked, his mind erupts into fantasy. In The Cousin, a gay dude is staying with a friend. His host’s young cousin is also crashing there and he has a penchant for walking around in his speedos. The tension worsens because they are sharing bunk beds. Two “straight” guys, in The Other One, might be a little too enthusiastic when they show each other the proper way to make love to a woman (this one is laugh out loud funny). In Broken Arms, an injured man enjoys getting bathed by a male nurse. It is both sensual and sad. In Love, a man and his girl friend are renting a cabin and the hunky handyman keeps popping up at the right (wrong?) moments. Expect the awkward when he comes to fix the shower. Finally, Workout features two young jocks who clearly admire each other’s physiques and their horseplay couldn’t be any more homoerotic. They start sexting with two "hot chicks" - who ask to see hot pictures of the two of them together. Off come the shirts and out comes the camera phone. With each new picture, the guys shed more and more clothes - not to mention inhibitions.

Does the film make any great point? No, hardly, but it’s an amusing way to spend 100 minutes. Argentinean directors Marco Berger and Marcelo Monaco are masters at teasing the audience and that is what makes this omnibus film fun. Sexual Tension: Volatile is one tease after another and that is the engine that drives the movie. Berger made a film in 2009 called Plan B which also played with the theme of straight and gay guy attractions. A “straight” guy tried to seduce his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend for revenge (don’t ask) and then started to fall in love. That film was also a perpetual tease. Variations on Plan B’s central conflicts reappear here.

Reading the signs can sometimes be a bitch. In Ari, we see how straight guys can give off signals whether they mean to or not. Does the tattoo artist know what he is doing when he pulls up his shirt to show the smitten young man his tattoos? Is the cousin oblivious, or does he know what he is doing when he strips in front of his horny bunkmate? How about the male nurse who bathes the sad, lonely cripple? His face is a blank slate even when his face is inches from the other man’s crotch. It is still a tableau rosa even when the man’s hairy thigh is pressed against his face while he puts on his socks for him. The patient looks uncomfortable but that is probably because he is trying not to get hard.

It is refreshing that none of the segments get resolved. Some do – kind of – but several just leave you hanging. And, quite frankly, that is what actually ups the titillation factor. I think I can speak for most gay men when I say that we are easily amused by watching the sexual tension between two “straight” guys. When the two gym rats strip down to their underwear to take sexting pictures, the fun comes from wondering just how far these two “straight” guys are going to go. Will they cross some line and suddenly jump apart or will they finally just go for it and fuck? Same for the other “straight” guys earlier who were having way too much fun showing each other how to make love to a woman. They may as well start doing it for real.

Allow me to describe one scene that best illustrates what I found clever about this movie. In the Love segment, the boyfriend is asleep in the cabin. His girlfriend is outside and has just been served breakfast. She asks the handyman if he would go wake up her beau. The handyman stands at the foot of the man’s bed, admiring the sleeping man’s body. He nudges his shoulder. Still asleep, the cabin guest grabs the handyman’s hand and pulls it slowly down his chest, down his stomach and then, as his arm falls, lets go just before the hand would have reached his crotch. Then he wakes up and sees the man standing there – who nervously tells him that breakfast is ready. Later, they wind up in a shower together.

While most of his is both erotic and funny, there are also a couple moments of surprising poignancy. One feels for the homely young lad and can identify with his crush on the man who just gave him his first tattoo. When the ink artist tells him how to care for the tattoo so that it heals properly, the kid imagines it all as a seduction - his paramour 's arms around him while he whispers the instructions into his ear. One also feels for the sad, lonely – and probably bored out of his skull – patient who is able to sneak a peak at his nurse stripping naked and changing into his scrubs. He certainly must be lost in fantasy while he is being bathed. The soundtrack offers only the sound of wind and the viewer can only sit there in suspense and guess which way this scene will go.

A huge chunk of the film is silent. I liked that. The lack of music cues allows us to really read whatever we want into the encounters that are presented for our amusement. When there is dialogue, it is often screwball comedy funny – like when the one jock assures his buddy that the picture he just sent of him is hot. Look for a few comical close-ups of bulging shorts. Like the earlier Plan B, there are a lot of long takes… very long camera takes and the actors make these scenes work.

The cast in this film is terrific; and Sexual Tension: Volatile would have come off as sophomoric without the right actors on the screen. There's also the perfect amount of expected eye candy. It’s all great silly fun, no more no less, but expertly executed. I expected soft porn but got something more. It feels good to be reviewing again.


More on Marco Berger:
Plan B

Mario Veron also appears in: