Monday, 18 May 2015
FILM REVIEW: WILD TALES
In the opening credits of this Argentinian film, cast and crew are represented by an image of an animal: lion, fox, crocodile etcetera. Yes, people are animals. And while that metaphor may not be subtle (though a whole lot more subtle than it was delivered in Luc Besson's Lucy), the rest of Damian Szifron's third feature is a punchy, bloody and at time raucous evocation of said metaphor.
Across six vignettes (including the pre-credits tale set aboard a plane), Szifron explores with humour and violence, through the absurd and the bloody, our violent and vindictive nature; how quick we are to anger and to embrace our basest impulses.
Along with those passengers all booked aboard a doomed flight, there is the waitress at the roadside diner who is confronted with the man who ruined her family: will she poison his dinner like the cook suggests she should? Meanwhile, on a stretch of quiet road outside of the city, a well-heeled man insults a 'redneck' only to wish he hadn't when car trouble strikes and the offended driver catches up with him.
This vignette, arguably the best of the six, plays out almost like a horror film before machismo and city-v-country rivalry are reduced to little boy fisticuffs and a fiery denouement.
The fourth and fifth vignette's in Szifron's film are perhaps more specific to Argentina: a city engineer becomes increasingly exasperated and infuriated by the corrupt bureaucracy. He's as mas as hell and he's not going to take it any more; meanwhile a hit and run by a rich kid sees his parents, the family lawyer and even the humble gardener too easily prepared to take advantage of the country's corroded legal system.
These two segments, more politically and socially pointed, halt the film's earlier, punchier style but Szifron ends his anthology on a high: a wedding which sees a post-nuptial bride go berserk when she discovers, mid-celebrations, her new husband's infidelity. Hell hath no fury like a bride betrayed. (This reviewer has already cast Gaby Hoffman and Bradley Cooper in a feature-length remake.)
Like any anthology, not every story is as effective as the one before but overall Wild Tales is a satisfying whole. And while those expecting a project produced by Pedro Almodovar to contain some kink, camp or even just a tad more sex may feel a little cheated by proceedings, Szifran deftly handles the shifting tones and styles of each tale.
With an Oscar nomination (for Best Foreign Language Film) now under his belt, Damian Szifron is another name to watch in the ever-growing list of impressive South American filmmakers.