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Wild Tales Movie Review

WILD TALES (Relatos salvajes)

Sony Pictures Classics

Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten. Data-based on Rotten Tomatoes.

Grade:  A-

Director:  Damiàn Szifrón

Screenwriter:  Damiàn Szifrón

Cast:  Ricardo Darín, Oscar Martínez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Èrica, Rivas, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, Darío Grandinetti

Screened at:  Sony, NYC, 10/21/14

Opens:  February 20, 2015

Ever since the playwright Aeschylus entertained us by dramatizing the legend of Agamemnon—who gets his comeuppance from his wife Clytemnestra because of his affair with Cassandra—audiences have loved stories of revenge.  But the Greek tragedians were humorless.  Not so Damian Szifrón, who delights us with six stories, one more darkly comic than the other.  The Argentine writer-director’s “Wild Tales” is of a part with an earlier feature of his, “The Bottom of the Sea” (2003), in which an architect visits his girlfriend to find a man hidden under her bed.  He follows the man, determined to both persecute and investigate him.

“Wild Tales” finds Szifrón again tackling the theme of revenge, using the short story format to entertain us with six tales unified by the common denominator of retribution.  We leave the movie cheering the vindictive heroes (or villains), feeling the same joy in watching their adventures as they must have felt exacting their revenge.

This movie, Argentina’s entry into the 87th annual Academy Awards to be held February 22, wholly deserves the ten-minute standing ovation that it received at the Cannes Film Festival.  There is not a misstep in any of the stories, though the final segment, the most accomplished in terms of writing, directing, acting and music, is among the most energetic and crowd-pleasing of anything observed during this year.

In, “Pasternak,” the brief opener, one that could safely play out in the legitimate theater, a number of passengers on a plane discover that they have something in common, namely, an opinion about the title character and not a hopeful or optimistic viewpoint in sight.  Their conversation, which briefly bonds a model, a music critic, a teacher and others, is met with a vindictive comeback by none other than Pasternak.

With “The Rats” or “Las Ratas,” a waitress (Julieta Zylberberg) describes a customer (César Bordón) to the cook (Rita Cortese) as a gangster who destroyed her family. While the cook has ideas on exacting payback, the waitress suggests restraint.  The conversations between the waitress and the cook and between the server and her shady customer are gems.

Szifrón breaks away into the open highway in “Road to Hell,” or El más fuerte), a satiric look at the perils of masculine testosterone.  A slow-moving driver, Mario (Walter Donado), is confronted by a seemingly dignified man, Diego, (Leonardo Sbaraglia) who tries to pass him only to be cut off.  After insulting Mario, Diego’s car breaks down.  Road rage ensues resulting in disaster.

With “Bombita,” Simón Fisher (played by Ricardo Darín, perhaps the best known actor in the film) becomes fed up with bureaucracy, or as he would put it, our fascist government.  After repeatedly being fined for leaving his car in a spot that has no sign indicating no parking, he, a mere individual cog, rises up to challenge the entire administration to the cheers of other fellows who did not have the cojones to take action of their own.

In “The Deal,” or “La Propuesta, Mauricio Pereyra Hamilton (Óscar Martínez) a rich businessman tries to buy his son out the young man’s troubles following a hit-and-run incident.  Though debauched himself, obviously, he finds corruption all around him. The prosecutor, the lawyer, and a scapegoat, all want their sizable cuts of the man’s fortune.  But Mauricio gets the last laugh.

The final segment, the most successful, the most riotously funny, finds Ariel (Diego Gentile) and Romina (Érica Rivas) as soul mates enjoying nuptials in an expensive Jewish wedding with all the trimmings—the large audience of guests, the loud band, the photographers, the chefs.  But when Romina discovers that the man whose last name she has just begun sharing had been sleeping with one of the guests, she goes ballistic.  And by ballistic, we mean the word almost literally.  There is enough energy expended by the inebriated guests to power a rocket at Cape Canaveral halfway up to the moon.  The ensuring fight between bride and groom may remind you of the same between Oliver and Barbara in “War of the Roses,” though in this case the groom throws up only when threatened with the loss of his money.  Brilliant comedy, insightful satire, fierce performances.

The writer-director has said that “I frequently think of Western capitalist society as a sort of transparent cage that reduces our sensitivity and distorts our bonds with others.  ‘Wild Tales’ presents a group of individuals who live within this cage without being aware of its existence.”  Fair enough, but you don’t have to fully “get” Szifron’s proposed moral to enjoy this powerful, violent, yet comic look at humanity.  We human beings are not unlike our fellows in the animal kingdom, which is why “Wild Tales” introduces us in the break between two episodes to a shy animal, a fox, and a fierce one, a tiger.

Rated R.  114 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-

Acting – A

Technical – A-

Overall – A

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Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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