Wild Tales

****1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Ferociously funny."

Revenge is served cold and sometimes hot but always deliciously in this collection of six darkly comic shorts from Argentina's Damián Szifron, which ought to be a strong contender in the foreign language category when Oscar night rolls round. Each of the tales - Pasternak, The Rats, Road To Hell, Dynamite, The Bill and Till Death Us Do Part - sees the preyed upon become predator and when these worms turn, they bite.

From chance encounters on a plane, which may be more than they appear, to the frustrations of a man whose car is towed and the cracks in a couple's relationship that begin to show even before their wedding cake is cut, Szifron takes each situation and twists it into a tale of the unexpected. Elsewhere, a diner waitress toys with vengeance, road rage could prove fatal and a car accident leads to sinister scheming. Szifron has the sensibility and unpredictability of Roald Dahl, pushing his characters until they snap but never quite in the way we imagine they might.

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To go into plot detail would be to spoil the treats in store but perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that this phalanx of stories doesn't have a weak point. It's customary for film collections to sag somewhere - although that is more true of portmanteau films with different directors - but Szifron's cutting edge never blunts. His Argentina is a place where corruption rules over a land of bureaucracy and money can buy you anything, except perhaps the ability to be more cunning than the next man. Violence is everywhere, but Szifron suggests more than he shows, keeping the emphasis on humour rather than horror. The one exception is that tale of accident scheming - The Bill - which although still comic, suggests the less funny territory where this sort of off-the-chart vengeance can lead.

The writing is taut and cast members including Argentine cinema favourites such as Ricardo Darín and Leonardo Sbaraglia make a lasting impression as they dance close to the edge. There is real craft in terms of staging too, with one short ending on a memorable freeze frame that had the San Sebastian cinema I attended hooting with delight, while another features the sort of outrageous slapstick that makes Itchy & Scratchy look tame. You can sense cinematographer Javier Julia smiling as he captures the chaos with some clean and crafty camerwork, with Szifron carefully judging when it will be funnier for us to be able to 'see it coming' and when to keep his cards close to his chest. The result is unflagging and ferociously funny.

Reviewed on: 03 Oct 2014
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Vulnerable before a reality that can suddenly be modified and become unpredictable, the characters of Wild Tales cross the thin line that divides civilization from brutality.
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Director: Damián Szifron

Writer: Damián Szifron

Starring: Rita Cortese, Ricardo Darín, Nancy Dupláa, Darío Grandinetti, Oscar Martínez, Osmar Núñez, María Onetto, Erica Rivas, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Julieta Zylberberg

Year: 2014

Runtime: 122 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Argentina, Spain


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