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Monday, November 4, 2013

DVD Review: Sexual Tension: Violetas

Sexual Tension: Violetas is actually six short films about lesbian encounters, written and directed by Marco Berger and Marcelo Monaco. These films are mostly about mood, emotion and the moment rather than plot. But it is in those elements that these films find their strengths. There are also lots of very well framed shots, and it is those shots and the mood of the pieces that tell the stories. All of these (except the last one) are about initial attraction, not about established couples.

The first film, Sleep With Me, is about what we can assume is a young woman’s first lesbian experience. She arrives at a hostel and sees another young woman seated on the steps. The other woman doesn’t have a room, so she invites her up to hers. Before she does, there is a nice shot of the woman looking down at the other girl in the courtyard. After a moment she pulls back out of frame, but the camera lingers, as if she might reappear. As if perhaps she should. And when she does get the other girl into her room, she begins awkwardly flirting with her. The film established that she knows the girl is a lesbian, so it’s not like she’s taking a chance. And when the girl responds to her flirting, it’s done so quietly and innocently. A very nice moment.

The film then cuts to later, with the woman seated in the dark, crying. She tells the other girl that she’s not a lesbian and accuses her of taking advantage of her. Clearly she doesn’t know exactly what she wants, or if she should have what she wants. What’s great is that the other girl has no delusions – she knows exactly what’s happening here. And the last shot of this film is wonderful, as it leaves us wondering just what the woman is thinking, what she’ll do next.

Most of these films actually end very well. And most of the films themselves are quite good. I’m particularly fond of the fifth one, A Night And A Robot, in which two female prostitutes are hired for the night by a male client. Like the others, this short film has nicely composed shots. The women shower, because the man has told them to. And when they come out, he tells them to touch each other. What’s really interesting about this is that we don’t see the women then. We see the man on the bed in the lower right section of the screen. We only begin to see the women emerge from the shadow in reflection above the bed. So then later when they wake and eventually kiss each other, it’s like they’re touching for the first time, because for us it is the first time we’re seeing it. There is something quite beautiful and sweet about Guadalupe, who’s been working as a prostitute for only a year (Mariana, the other woman, has been at it longer).

The only short that doesn’t work is the fourth one, Sweetheart. Unlike the others, this one has a lot of dialogue, and none of it feels quite natural. A heterosexual couple stops in at a cafĂ© on the way to the movies. They’re talked about by a gay man and gay woman at another table. And then Juli, the supposedly heterosexual girl, excuses herself to go to the bathroom. Eventually the female server joins her in there. And then they end up hanging out in there, talking, while the boyfriend waits outside. It goes on too long, feeling like an improvised scene in an acting class that the actors don’t know how to end, and so keep repeating themselves. Of course they eventually kiss and strip. We keep cutting to the boyfriend impatiently waiting for his girl to come out so they get to the movie. And then it ends with a ridiculous implication that that’s what goes on all the time in women’s bathrooms.

But the other five are all worth watching. There are some truly interesting frame compositions. And, as I said, most of these films end with a great last shot. The final film, The Other Woman, ends on the bed and single pillow, empty of the two women we’ve come to know. It’s an excellent final image.

The DVD also includes the film’s trailer.

Sexual Tension: Violetas was released on October 8, 2013 through TLA Releasing.

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