Efrén Hernández’s short film seems to have ditched every organizing principle except one: “be the video you wish to see on YouTube.” Master Muscles is exactly the sort of thing you might expect to meet on some disused corner of the internet, awake past bedtime and bleary-eyed on a long-haul weird-spiral. Raw and divisive--just check out the Vimeo comments after it got Staff Pick in September--it seems less driven by provocation than by the pure fun of abandoning all propriety.
The film sets a running courtship between an acne-scarred nebbish (played by Hernández) and a pushy bodybuilder against a set of post-consumer American vistas, from a trash-filled motel window well to a tricked-out beach house. Along the way, we see the two prodding, hefting, testing and trying on one another’s bodies, by turns curious, revolted, eager. The result is a tiny road movie that’s smart but not showy, unmentionably gross but shockingly watchable.
Hernandez recently Kickstarted a film about conjoined twins, which, given the strong work on display here, I eagerly await. (Official Selection: Sundance, Maryland, Rooftop, Sidewalk, Little Rock, Oak Cliff, Cucalorus, New Orleans, Winner of Hammer to Nail Spring '14 Contest.)