Friday, 17 April 2015

Wild Tales (2014)

The 'wild' in the title of the above Argentinian movie does not just mean outlandish, which this film is to the nth degree, but to individuals becoming 'wild' when they lose all control over their emotions and inbred civilised responses. Oscar-nominated for best foreign language film, this flick from the young director Damian Szifron probably never stood any chance of winning. It is too black, too tongue-in-cheek, and lacks the expected gravitas of Oscar contenders. It is also probably too hugely enjoyable to join such hallowed ranks. Surprisingly it showed in competition at Cannes-- a far cry from the Dardenne Brothers.

A compendium movie of six non-connected short films, the director has stated that its theme is about the pleasure of losing control. Each story is 'wild' in its own way, but perhaps the tales are not as completely far-fetched as they are presented; when someone is pushed beyond certain limits, he may well 'snap' and give in to explosive passions. Here are Szifron's little morality tales:

The tone is set by the first story, "Pasternak", where the passengers on a flight indulge in idle conversation and discover that they each have known a bad bit of business by that name. Amusing at first, as more and more of them pipe up to mention how they met the nasty fellow, the story becomes troublesome as they discover that they have all been given tickets for this particular flight. Soon they are bashing on the locked door to the cockpit; in the light of recent events this story is too close to the knuckle to remain amusing.

The film rapidly moves on to the second section titled "Rats", where a waitress in a small deserted caf√© in the back of beyond recognises the new customer as the man who ruined her father and who tried to seduce her mother. The short-order cook at the back suggests that the rat poison in the cupboard might be the answer to her dilemma. Throughout, the movie makes several not-so-veiled references to the rottenness and corruption that characterise both people in authority and governments -- and such criticism does extend beyond the borders of The Argentine! Repeatedly characters say that folk want change but are seldom prepared to get involved or do anything about it. Here someone does something in an over-the-top way.

The third part "Road to Hell" deals with machismo and road rage as a yuppie in a new high-powered motor upsets a redneck in his junk heap. Their sparring behaviour grows more and more irrational together with the murderous gleam in their eyes. The segment ends with a totally unexpected and humorous tableau, taking away any potential bad taste in the mouth or mind.

Part four "Bombita" stars the most recognizable actor of the large ensemble cast, Ricardo Darin of "The Secret in their Eyes" and "Nine Queens" fame, as a demolition explosions engineer. His own usual mild manner also explodes when his car is continually towed away several days in a row, and he is forced to deal with a succession of petit bureaucrats who are 'just doing my job'. He risks his family and freedom to make a final stand and ironically becomes something of a hero in the process. 

The fifth segment, which also felt the longest, "The Deal", is possibly the least successful and the least amusing of the director's examples. A wealthy man tries to protect his feckless son from a 'hit and run' charge by getting one of his servants to accept the rap in exchange for a huge monetary sop. However as a greedy lawyer and an equally greedy prosecutor get involved in the wheeze, his patience finally snaps. A new deal is struck but the would-be shock ending was telegraphed too far in advance to work for any sentient movie-goer.

Finally "Til Death do us Part" crowns the movie with a fast-moving and totally outrageous series of events at a vaguely Jewish wedding feast. When the pampered bride discovers that her new husband has been unfaithful with one of the guests, she loses it completely. She turns on the groom threatening his financial and social ruin, before he snaps as well. Between them they just about wreck both the room, the multi-tiered cake, and the mental and physical well-being of their family and guests, before collapsing together into a heap of unmitigated lust. A delightful ending for a largely delightful movie.

It is no surprise to note that the film was co-produced by Pedro Almodovar's company, since this is a production right up his own off-beat alley and a movie that he himself would have been proud to direct.    
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