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Wild Tales

Original title: Relatos salvajes

D: Damián Szifrón / 122m

Cast: Darío Grandinetti, María Marull, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, César Bordón, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Walter Donado, Ricardo Darín, Nancy Dupláa, Oscar Martínez, Osmar Núñez, Germán de Silva, Érica Rivas, Diego Gentile

On a plane, catwalk model Isabel (Marull) meets classical music critic Salgado (Grandinetti). They discover they both know Gabriel Pasternak, Isabel’s ex-boyfriend. Soon, it becomes apparent that everyone on the flight knows Gabriel, and they’ve all held him back or made him angry in some way. But now Gabriel is flying the plane…

At a diner late one night, a man (Bordón) comes in and is rude to the waitress (Cortese). She recognises him as the man who caused her father’s death and made advances to her mother two weeks after her father’s funeral. The cook (Zylberberg), upon hearing this, suggests they put rat poison in his food. The waitress is horrified by the idea, but when the food goes out and she discovers the cook has added the poison, she makes little effort to stop the man from eating it. It’s only when the man’s son arrives and begins eating the food as well that she tries to take the food away, with terrible consequences…

Driving through the countryside, Diego (Sbaraglia) is deliberately held up by another driver, Mario (Donado). Diego finally overtakes him and yells abuse at him as he goes by. Several miles later, he gets a flat tyre just as he reaches a bridge. Just as he’s finishing putting a new wheel on, Mario arrives and pulls up directly in front of Diego’s car. Diego hides inside his car, while Mario takes the opportunity to vandalise it. When he’s finished, Mario gets back in his truck but before he can move off, an incensed Diego pushes Mario’s vehicle down the incline at the side of the bridge where it topples over into the river. Mario survives and clambers back up to the road, threatening to find Diego and kill him as Diego drives off. But Diego finds he can’t leave things as they are, and turns back…

Respected demolitions expert Simón (Darín) stops off on his way home to pick up a birthday cake for his daughter. While he does, his car is towed away for being in a No Parking zone. He goes to the towing depot and despite explaining that he couldn’t have known he was parked illegally, still has to pay to get his car released. He also finds that he has to pay the parking fine as well, but before he does he loses his temper and takes a fire extinguisher to the teller’s window. His subsequent arrest leads to his losing his job, which leads to his wife wanting a divorce, which – in a twist of fate – leads to his car being towed again. But this time, he makes the necessary payments, before embarking on a plan of revenge…

Well-off businessman Mauricio (Martínez) wakes one morning to learn that his teenage son has knocked down and killed a pregnant woman. He calls his lawyer (Núñez), who comes over straight away. They hit on a plan to persuade Mauricio’s groundskeeper Jose (de Silva) to take the blame for the hit-and-run in return for $500,000. When the fiscal prosecutor arrives he realises Jose isn’t the culprit, but proves willing to go along with Mauricio’s plan if he can be paid as well. When the cost of keeping things quiet begins to spiral out of control, Mauricio realises there’s only one thing he can do…

On the day of their wedding, Romina (Rivas) and Ariel (Gentile) are as happy as any newly-wed couple can be. Until Romina spies Ariel with a woman that he works with, and being more friendly than is comfortable. She confronts him and eventually he concedes that he’s slept with the other woman. Romina, angry and upset, runs off to the roof where she encounters one of the kitchen staff. He consoles her, which leads to Romina deciding to go back down and make this one wedding reception to remember…

Wild Tales - scene 3

With each of its six stories painting a picture of emphatic revenge, Wild Tales is a treasure trove of violence, pent-up emotion, unbridled anger, personal despair, and cathartic expression. It’s an often no-holds-barred experience where average people find themselves willing and able to do things they wouldn’t normally consider. As such it works on a visceral level that will have some viewers cheering in parts and laughing heartily in others; it’s that kind of feelgood movie.

The stories themselves vary in intensity, with several proving satisfactory on a wish fulfilment level, while a couple lack the bite of the rest. The opener has the initial feel of a Twilight Zone episode, but soon morphs into the ultimate revenge tale as one man decides to kill everyone who’s ever crossed him. It’s funny and horrifying at the same time and packs a punch with its final shot that isn’t forgotten very easily. The second tale has a classic structure, and is where revenge is complicated by the arrival of an innocent into the proceedings. It’s stylishly done, with a noir feel to it that complements and enhances the storyline, and Zylberberg’s fierce portrayal of the cook is an unexpected bonus.

The pick of the bunch is definitely the third tale, with its two protagonists descending rapidly from macho posturing to murderous determination with no attempt made to work things out. It’s brutal, uncompromising, and shocking in the way that these two men resort to such extreme measures – and with so little compunction. And then there’s the ironic postscript, where two investigators sum up their opinion of what happened, a perfect coda that subverts the savagery that’s gone before. By contrast, the fourth tale is a more considered tale of revenge, the kind that’s taken after one too many setbacks, reversals of fortune, or bad breaks. The issue of being towed away will be familiar to many people in many countries, and it’s this familiarity that gives the story it’s resonance. As Simón fights against an uncaring bureaucracy, you know it’s just a matter of time before he puts his “special set of skills” to good, vengeful use. And when he does, you can’t help but cheer, even though you know the system won’t let him get away with it.

The fifth tale is perhaps the weakest of the six, where the concept of revenge is used in its loosest form, with Mauricio taking a firm stand against the people who, seeing an opportunity, are looking to benefit from the awful situation his son has put him in. There’s a humorous side to the tale that manifests itself through the spiralling costs of people’s willingness to “help”, and finally by Mauricio’s assertion that enough is enough and all deals are off. But corruption has a way of winning out, and the outcome – while never in doubt – provides a sad, sour note that doesn’t feature elsewhere in the movie. The sixth tale is a riot, one of those stories that we’d like to think happens more often than it actually does, where fidelity is exposed and leads to the kind of publicly humiliating, extreme, morally indignant behaviour where verbal cruelty is the order of the day. It’s similar to the first tale in that it’s funny and horrifying at the same time, but on reflection, viewers may well find that it doesn’t go far enough, and that Romina’s actions aren’t quite as vindictive as they could have been. Still, it’s an entertaining tale, and in contrast to all the carnage and terrible behaviour seen in the previous stories, has a final scene that ends the movie on a positive note.

Wild Tales - scene 6

On the whole, Wild Tales is a darkly comic look at the various ways in which revenge can colour and alter our lives and lead us down some very dark paths indeed. As assembled by writer/director Szifrón, the movie is absorbing and compelling and bitingly satirical in its reflection of how quickly we dispense with so-called decent behaviour when we feel the need to. It’s difficult to detect any moral judgment in the stories, with Szifrón apparently content to let his audience make their own minds up as to how guilty or innocent each character is, but some will definitely have their supporters.

Each segment starts off slow then picks up speed, which does lead to the feeling that the movie is a bit of a stop-start experience, but the characters are concisely and effectively drawn, and Szifrón makes sure each tale is told in a lean, measured way that augments the material and ensures there’s nothing extraneous to deal with. The cast are uniformly excellent, with special mention going to Darín and Rivas. And each tale benefits from Javier Julia’s often invigorating and beautifully lit photography.

Rating: 8/10 – as portmanteau movies go, Wild Tales has such a high success rate it could be almost embarrassing; with its theme of revenge expressed in such an impressive fashion, the movie has so much to offer, and rewards on so many levels, that it can be returned to time and time again and still maintain its effectiveness.

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