Sunday, March 22, 2015

Film Review: Wild Tales

"Wild Tales" **** (out of ****)

People are mad as hell and they just aren't going to take it anymore in the savage dark comedy "Wild Tales" (2015).

"Wild Tales", originally titled "Relatos Salvajes", is directed by Damian Szifron and comes from Argentina. It was the country's official selection at the 87th annual Academy Awards ceremony in the "best foreign language film" category and competed for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

The movie is comprised of six short films, none of which share inter-connecting storylines or characters, but all address similar themes of violence and revenge.

If "Wild Tales" is any reflection of Argentina or the world in general it would suggest some very dark and disturbing (to some) truths. The world presented in "Wild Tales" is one filled with people who are angry and hostile. Some feel abused by a bureaucratic system, which is nothing more than a money generating scheme, and a government which is complicit with it. Others are fueled by greed, even at the expense of their family's protection, while others are willing to commit murder in the name of family honor.

Still Mr. Szifron and his film try to end on a positive note, suggesting, yes, life is miserable. Lets not pretend it isn't. Terrible and unfair things happen in this world to innocent people. If people aren't hurting you, institutions like the government, are, however, we need to learn to accept things as they are. Life is messy and we all need to learn to deal with it and not allow anger and hatred to dictate our actions. We all need to learn to take a deep breathe.

The movie also serves as a psychological experiment on the viewer. Audiences may find themselves in agreement with the acts of violent on-screen, accepting the behavior of the characters. Which may serve the point, everyone has built up rage within them. The characters on-screen may actually be behaving in ways the audience wishes they could. Did you ever get so angry at someone you wanted to scream at them or hit them? Most people would answer yes. That is what makes it gratifying for the viewer to see the characters in this movie engage in violent behavior.

Some viewers however may not find the violence in this movie disturbing and for that we must give filmmaker, Mr. Szifron, credit. Some viewers may even laugh at the destruction on-screen. Why? Mr. Szifron presents the film's graphic scenes in an almost cartoonish, caricature fashion. Events are exaggerated to the extreme. No rational person would behave this way. That may provide a small comfort for viewers and allow them to laugh. If viewers were to find the movie too grotesque any social and/or political themes the movie would want to address would go unnoticed by the public and the sheep (movie critics) who would primarily focus on the violence instead.

Watching "Wild Tales" I could not help but think of the television show "The Twilight Zone". All six stories in the film end with an ironic twist. A ha-ha punchline moment. Depending on the individual story and for that matter the punchline, it can feel unnecessary and cheapen the overall effect of the movie as we sit and wait for the resulting joke. Still the majority of the stories work. The theme is clearly stated and delivered.

The first story in this anthology is called "Pasternak". It is the story of a group of people on a plane who all share something in common from their past. Every passenger on the plane knew and wronged a musician named Pasternak from an ex-girlfriend, an old teacher, a music critic and his psychiatrist. Why has Pasternak brought these people together on a plane? The idea though is a common one. Wouldn't we all like to gather all the people who ever wronged us and tell them off?

The second story is called "Rats". It deals with a waitress at a small diner who must serve a man who caused her family financial ruin years earlier. He doesn't remember her but she remembers him. Should she seek revenge?

Another interesting story is called "Strongest". It deals with a wealthy man driving on an empty road. Eventually he finds himself driving behind a working class man, who isn't driving as fast as the privileged wealthy man would like him to. What happens is what every person who has ever been cut off on the road would love to do in retaliation to every maniac driver on the road that is incapable of following speed limits.

By themselves the stories would be somewhat interesting and hit on universal truths but collected together in one film the stories having a damning effect. It is almost unrelenting in its intensity. The movie gets a strong reaction out of the viewer.

Although 2015 is only three months old "Wild Tales" is a movie I'm sure I will remember at the end of the year. It is one of the best films this year.