Exciting, brave and transgressive with more than a dash of toxic humor, all of these labels describe the new film "Wild Tales" by Argentinian director Damien Szifron.
This vignette film, composed of six short segments hooks us from the get-go. Yes, things are reptilian, carnivorous and deadly, but events fall just short of unbelievable which is all to the better. The stories, brimming with a chaotic savagery, never dispose of the grounding force of drama and emotion in real situations, thus saving each bit from outlandish farce.
The first part concerns a plane. Isabel (Maria Murell) believes she will be on a semi-relaxed business trip pertaining to her modeling. After a bit of flirtation with a passenger, conversation mutates to talk of her ex, a passionate but hapless and emotionally disturbed classical musician by the name of Pasternak. She soon finds to her shock and disbelief, that every passenger knows of this man and more shockingly, Pasternak, incredibly, is the pilot of the plane. Wait, there's more, but no spoiler here. It snuck up on me with a jab of genuine anxiety
But perhaps the best segment, par excellence is "El mas fuerte" (The Strongest) about road rage. Mario (Walter Donado) is a huge bull of a man who won't move his economy car out of the way when a wealthy Diego ( Leonardo Sbaraglia) wishes to pass him on a desolate Argentine road. As soon as Diego calls Mario a "redneck," the tension increases in increments only to be ratcheted up ten fold with incidents that have to be seen to be believed.
This bizarre episode is a sardonic and gruesome O. Henry story with a final punch right up there with the likes of Ambrose Bierce or Edgar Allan Poe.
Many of the tales lull you at first with a feeling of easy comic lightness but as each event unfolds we realize, like many of the characters portrayed, that we are watching a noose tighten before our eyes.
The film has wonderful attention to detail. Watch for the grave intimidating faces that suddenly light up in spontaneous joy during a wedding scene, or the sweating and surly loan shark (Cesar Bordon) as he enters an empty cafe, his snarling dog-like face recalling Ernest Borgnine.
Every character falls just short of a caricature, creating an aggressive and creepy version of The Canterbury Tales, full of comeuppance and circumstance.
Produced by Pedro Almodovar, the best aspect of "Wild Tales" is that it never leaves out its sense of surprise.
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