‘Wild Tales’ movie.
(photo credit: (AICF/CHRIS LEE))
Hebrew title Sipurim Pruim Written and directed by Damian Szifron
With Erica Rivas, Rita Cortese, Ricardo Darin
Running time: 2 hours
Check with theaters for subtitle information
Damian Szifron’s Wild Tales is a collection of six stories of darkly comic revenge fantasies from Argentina. How much you enjoy it will depend on your tolerance for violence and black humor. The movie is extremely well done, and there are even hints of the kind of glee that master director Luis Bunuel displayed at showing orderly lives deteriorating into savagery. The film, which was nominated this year for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, was produced by Pedro Almodovar, and it features its producer’s trademark outrageousness.
Before I go any further, I feel obligated to point out that the first story is that of a plane flight where a man who locks himself in the cockpit crashes his plane to settle scores with people who have wronged him. It is disturbing to see this sequence in light of the Germanwings plane crash. It’s arguably the most skilled, surprising and funniest sequence in the film, at least if you can keep the recent crash out of your mind – which will be virtually impossible.
As the flight starts out, passengers chat and discover that they all knew a man named Gabriel Pasternak, and their casual conversations detail how humiliating much of his life has been. The passengers include the ex-wife who jilted him and a psychologist who didn’t do much to help him. When they realize he has contrived to get them on board and is about to crash the plane in a place where he will end the lives of more of his tormentors, it’s too late.
Now that you’ve been forewarned, you can think about whether you’re up for Wild Tales.
The most striking story, apart from the plane crash, is the last one, about Romima (Erica Rivas), a run-of-the-mill bridezilla who becomes somewhat more destructive when she discovers, at her wedding dinner (and, by the way, it is quite obviously a Jewish wedding), that her groom, Ariel (Diego Gentile), has been cheating on her with a gorgeous wedding guest. This sequence works because it features a typical, dull wedding party turned into a scene from hell and because it plays on a very real anxiety many brides have going into their wedding – has the groom truly forsaken all others? Your reaction to this scene will either be wild laughter or nervous giggles, depending on which character you find yourself identifying with.
The plane crash and the wedding tales bookend a mixed bag of stories. In one, a waitress in a remote café sees the gangster who drove her father to suicide.
When she tells the cook, a hardened ex-con played by the marvelous Rita Cortese, the cook instantly decides to poison the man with rat poison, and then, well, it gets complicated.
A road-rage duel between an executive type and a tough trucker is especially violent and ugly and was written mainly to provide a punchline, which I won’t reveal here.
A story involving a wealthy father trying to cover up a hitand- run in which his son killed a woman does not show any physical violence but is just as blunt and hopeless in its cynical point of view.
Ricardo Darin, one of Argentina’s biggest stars, plays an engineer whose life is wrecked by a parking ticket, in a sequence of events involving an antagonistic bureaucracy that will be all too familiar to Israelis. Darin has starred in a number of the bestloved Argentinian films of the past two decades, among them Son of the Bride, Nine Queens and The Secret in Their Eyes.
The problem with Wild Tales is that, while it wants us to savor and identify with these tales of revenge, those exacting vengeance all go too far, even into madness and/or cruelty, and the realistic depiction of the consequences robs them of much of the fun the filmmaker intended. This film should be fun, but all too often it may remind you of just the kinds of frustrations you went to the movies to forget.