I’m not sure who wrote the IMDB synopsis, but they’ve nailed the essence of “Tensión sexual, Volumen 1: Volátil” (“Sexual Tension: Volatile”) by Argentinian filmmakers Marcelo Mónaco and Marco Berger. This tease of a film is actually a series of six separate shorts, yet they’re stringed together in a way that will bring a rise to your own shorts! Please bear in mind, this film is foreign and as such, most of you following my reviews will need to ensure you have English subtitles for the Spanish dialogue – but most of the time, you don’t even need to know what’s being said in order to get the subtext of each short.
Now, let’s drop those shorts… I mean,… let’s break them down a bit!
(And I apologise this might be a rather longer post because each short needs a review…)
Synopsis of the shorts in “Sexual Tension: Volatile”
First up on our voyeuristic pleasure cruise is “Ari”. Initially a slow and odd way to start off, we very quickly get drawn into the subtle waiting, the teasing, and the lust that highlights just about every short of this collection. A young boy (Lucas Lagré) is waiting to get his first tattoo from tattoo artist Ari (Mario Verón), except he is unsure what to get. So Ari starts showing off his tattoos, including one on his stomach that continues down his leg – giving us a slight glimpse of what’s under his pants in the process. The design is picked, something simple, and soon enough he’s getting advice on how to “rub lotion on it” so it heals well. Skip through a semi-dream sequence and another session about extending the tattoo further down towards his legs, we suddenly are treated to our young man enjoying coffee while admiring a leather bracelet with Ari’s name on it. Suddenly, Ari walks in and starts taking off his clothes! (And yes, we have full frontal nudity, albeit soft.) Unfortunately, the entire thing is a daydream – but the bracelet is real. Our young man returns for his final checkup after finishing the tattoo and tries to leave it behind, yet Ari notices and gives it back.
“Ari” perfectly nails those “first crush” feelings that we’ve all had on a (probably) straight guy. You keep finding ways to get their attention, perhaps getting them a gift. Heck, you even fantasize about them naked – we’ve ALL been there at some point. And just like our young man, we’re left hanging.
Our second short takes the tension from the first, and ups the ante! In “El Primo/Cousin”, our leading man (Javier De Pietro) is staying with his friend (Maximiliano Franco), who also happens to have his cousin staying over. Our first glimpse of the cousin (Lautaro Machaca) is of him sleeping wearing just a tee and white briefs – while the camera lingers a bit too long on the large bulge of said briefs. Skip to both guys lounging outside beside the pool where our main guy’s eyes continue to grab glimpses of his friends crotch, where very little is hidden under those wet trunks. That evening we watch our lead strip and get ready for bed himself, only to be awoken shortly after by the cousin who finally stirs. We watch as he quietly slips out of bed to follow the cousin, who slipped out for a smoke and piss. Yet, this is all unreciprocated lust… or is it?
The cousin appears to be teasing and taunting, wearing just his speedo that hides nothing at the pool. Or the following night, he dries off after a shower before slipping into white briefs that do nothing to hide his bulge. And all in front of our lead, who just so happens to be sitting on the lower bunk that they are sharing with his face right at crotch level. But just like the cousin is teasing our lead, we are teased as it skips ahead to the next day. The friend is sitting in a chair and our lead is looking at photos on the computer, his hand draped across the back of the chair. Suddenly the cousin comes in and casually pushes his crotch into the main guy’s hand. Tensions rise as we wait with baited breath while trying to sort out if it was intentional or accidental. And as most of us in that scenario would do, we watch as he flexes his fingers… and gradual gets courage to build up to more of a caressing. Yet it abruptly ends when the cousin walks away, before leaving early the next morning. Even we, the viewer are upset by the time the music cues up to end the scene!
Now, if you can keep watching without needing to take a break, our third short certainly will give you a reason to! “El Otro/The Other One” starts off with some artistic steady shots as we watch two guys moving furniture around. Tony (Leo Martínez) is bragging about having sex with his girlfriend and teasing his mate about what fun he gets up to. Except after a bit of this banter, Kevin (Guido Gastaldi) finally admits that his girlfriend won’t let them have sex – because he is too big and it hurts for her. Tony continues his jokes, saying how they’ve grown up seeing each other naked and thus, his mate is lying. Finally, Kevin gets fed up, stands up and drops his shorts. Sadly, we do not see anything here – but instead the reaction from Tony’s face says everything – including a newfound longing that many of us viewers can relate to!
After a bit of awkward tension, Tony decides that he’s going to help his mate out and “teach” him how to properly have sex. So, as straight guys tend to do (maybe?), Kevin explains his method of light teasing before just sliding in – thus why it always hurts for his girlfriend. Tony quickly tells him that’s not how to do it; that you have to get the girl comfortable and get her in the mood. But telling his mate is not enough, Tony “shows” Kevin how to successful do this by roleplaying it out. Before we know it, they are both shirtless and Tony is on top of Kevin. We start to wonder – is there more going on? Off comes the shorts next, and they’re just in their briefs laying next to each other. There’s that moment of suspense when they are looking at each other, talking about how the kiss is critical – yet positioned as if they themselves are about to kiss… and the camera pans down! Nothing happens between them, but oh – the teasing between the two in this scene is incredible!
Thankfully, our fourth short “Los Brazos Rotos/Broken Arms” is tame in comparison to the previous shorts. In fact, so much that I got bored (although it does do a good job of subduing the building tension). During this short, we watch a guy (Jair Toledo) lounging around the apartment in just his white briefs – in addition to a neck collar, his right elbow braced & bandaged, and another bandage on his left hand. He’s recovering from an accident. There’s a woman (Antonia De Michelis) also around the apartment, but we’re initially unsure who she is or why she is there. Yet after she makes a phone call and another guy arrives, they swap and it becomes clear that they’re both caretakers for our injured male lead.
There’s a bit of actual voyeurism while this male nurse (Hernan Muñoa) changes into scrubs, before giving our lead a sponge bath. Throughout what could be an erotic, tease during the sponge bath, the camera is positioned so that just about any nudity is “tactfully” covered… though for anyone who is truly craving those male frontal nudity shots, there are two brief ones as the male nurse helps our guy dry off and get dressed. Despite the title of this complication, there is practically zero tension during this scene – neither between the characters nor from our voyeuristic viewpoint.
“Amor/Love”, our fifth short of the compilation, is also an odd one in comparison to all of the others. The scene focuses on a straight couple staying at a cottage resort. Our main guy (Francisco Ortiz) wakes up and during an exploring walk around the grounds, discovers the handyman (Santiago Caamaño) working in the toolshed. They have a chat about random things, nothing remotely sexual, before the girlfriend comes looking for her partner. It skips to the following morning, where our female (Eva Benito) is chatting on the phone while letting her partner sleep in. She causally asks the handyman to go and wake up her partner (which is a bit odd…) while also mentioning that there is a leak in the shower of their cabin. Our handyman goes into their cabin and tries to wake up the guy by shaking him – except our guy grabs the handyman’s hand and slowly starts bringing it down towards his crotch… before fully waking up and realising that it’s not his girlfriend!
Next, our handyman shows our guy how to work the shower in another cabin as it requires a special touch. As our main guy strips down to enjoy his shower, they continue the convo from the day before, chatting about good places to get food in town. But our handyman asks him to leave the water running so that he can take a shower himself and not have to wait for the water to get hot… hmmm. He doesn’t get far before being called back. While our guy finishes his shower, the handyman starts to strip. There’s a brief moment they are both naked in this rather larger shower… and the scene ends.
Our final short is “Entrenamiento/Workout” where we start off watching two quite athletic guys, blue shorts & red shorts (we don’t get names right away, but clearly can tell the difference by just their shorts!), working out together in the park. While there’s no words at first, there is plenty of subtle teasing – shirtless workouts, blue shorts straddles red shorts ass and even brushes away something, et al. Before long, they are back at the apartments taking measurements of their muscles to track their progress. After some banter, which includes a hip measurement that crosses over a substantial bulge of blue shorts – including the crack about how “it’s all dick!”, they briefly wrestle and pin each other down. But that ends abruptly because of red shorts’ (Jorge Carossia) knee starts bothering him from a knot – which blue shorts (Fede Guasch) starts to massage. (Oh?)
As if they know we are watching them and are waiting for the “good stuff” to begin, the one gets a text from a girl. She’s sent him some sexy pics! He snaps a few more of himself to send – but also sneaks one of his mate in – and the girls want to see more of the two of them. Suddenly, they’re taking random pics of each other while flexing their muscles. Blue shorts wants to include nude photos to the girls, but red shorts is only comfortable with underwear shots. (Is blue shorts trying to hit on his friend, and even cat-fishing him? I mean, we’ve all been there ourselves… hoping that we could see our friend naked and perhaps lead to more!) The girls love the pictures and send naked photos back to the boys, and red shorts admits that he has a boner now. Blue shorts again tries to convince his friend to send nude photos back to the girls… to which red shorts finally agrees – but only if the blinds are shut. The last thing we see is red shorts standing with his back to the window, as the blinds lower! Talk about ending with more tension!
This is a really good compilation of shorts! With one exception, each one focus on the exoticness of non-sexual situations between guys – or how those rather innocent situations can quickly lead to a sexual, taunting flirtation and tease. A lot of thought went into the script; it is not merely a cheesy porno “story,” but realistic dialogue for each situation. The “Tension” is not just on screen between the actors, but we are pulled into a different tension of our own because each short is relatable, drawing us into the moment.
The talent of Marcelo Mónaco and Marco Berger is evident by the direction and setup of each scene. Through the camera lens and its thoughtful, even artistic, placement, they flirt with our voyeuristic nature. We WANT to watch what happens next – right until they cue the music and end the scene, leaving us on edge wanting more. The music is also tastefully incorporated throughout. Most of the time, the instrumental music starts as each scene ends with the musical style fitting to the moment. This includes an eerie music track after “Broken Arms” that, while quite different from the other musical interludes, fits that scene’s awkwardness.
I have very few faults with this film; I enjoyed watching it both times while preparing this review. However, it is not perfect and I have two reasons why I have docked half a point in two categories. While most of the script is full of natural dialogue, there is still a strong push towards sexual topics from supposed “straight” characters. Yes, it caters to the films audience who can relate to sexual jokes or flirting with our straight mates – but some moments felt a tad forced. Additionally, the sponge bath scene really was off putting. I found zero sexual tension in that scene – but there could have (and should have) been tension! For that reason, I had to knock off another half point.
In conclusion, (yes, we finally got there. Sorry!) “Sexual Tension: Volatile” is a titillating and voyeuristic adventure into eroticism of male intimacy. The film does exactly what it promises: it’ll give you sexual tension after watching yet never crosses that invisible line into adult film, even when showing full frontal male nudity (something that is not common, even in modern films). I probably would not watch this with your parents or grandparents around, but put it on and enjoy the tease for yourself!
Queer Relevance of “Sexual Tension: Volatile”
This is a unique category of films to review, because the entire point of this film is to tease us with homoerotic scenes. None of the characters are obviously homosexual, although the young guy in ‘Ari’ definitely has a crush on the tattoo artist and the guy in the blue shirt during ‘El Otro’ is potentially queer with a crush on his friend. Yet this is definitely a queer film because the queer relevance of this film are in the erotic subtleties between non-sexual encounters. That quick glance at the crotch while they lift up their shirt, that lingering stare, the casual brush of the hand, the erotic nature of boys playing, showering with another guy, etc. Additionally, I’d wager that there is at least one scene that we all can relate to.