Wild Tales

Posted by Joel Copling on March 13, 2015

"Wild Tales" tells six stories of utter insanity, and the proof is right there in the first one. In it, Isabel (Maria Marull) boards a plane and finds a seat next to an older man, Salgado (Dario Grandinetti), with whom she carries on a pleasant conversation. The conversation quickly becomes one of personal reminiscence, until coincidence morphs into something more sinister: The other passengers connect to their coincidence in ever-relative ways, and the whole thing ends on a note of such morbid absurdity that the only response to what can only be described as a massacre is a big, dumb grin. This is the kind of blackened comedy (for the most part, at least) to which a big, dumb grin is the constant refrain.

The second tale is perhaps the one the film could do without, but it has its merits. Moza (Julieta Zylberberg), a waitress in a small restaurant, encounters the man who led her father to suicide; he is a thug and a gangster, exuding control over a room with his tone of voice and mere presence. The outcome to this segment is so jarring that it makes little impact. The third tale is brutal: Diego (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a probably quite wealthy man in a nice car, enters into a ferocious battle of wits with the driver of a dinkier car that ends in a scuffle that is both violent and oddly resonant as a small study of disproportionate violence.

The fourth tale is the strongest. A demolitions expert named Simon (Ricardo Darin in a performance that bubbles on the surface even after it explodes) is repeatedly wronged by the system when his car is towed at the wrong curb (twice). The fallout of an argument with the DMV official and, later, a more important one is city-wide infamy and the loss of his job. The fifth tale has the most impact--including of the blunt-force-trauma kind. A father (Oscar Martinez) wakes from sleep to find his son has been involved in a hit-and-run that left a pregnant woman and her unborn child dead. The debate lies in his associates' fees for trying to cover it up, but by the final shot of the segment, it probably doesn't matter.

By the time the sixth tale comes, we've pretty much gotten the point, but it only establishes the idea further. In it, a bride (Erica Rivas) accuses her new husband (Diego Gentile) of infidelity with one of the wedding guests, his co-worker, and the thing spirals into a study of her emotional turmoil, leading to an angry, brilliantly performed address to the husband, threatening him with everything from infidelity of her own to acting lessons to avoid divorce. It's a brilliant segment of cake and tears and the red stuff. By this point, we're aware of the troublemakers on hand; these are people who slowly become aggressor or victim via a similar emotional breakdown.

Editors Damian Szifron (who is also writer and director of every segment) and Pablo Barbieri Carrera and cinematographer Javier Julia are on fire here, offering sometimes intimidatingly great filmmaking that utilizes elegant camera movements at fascinating odds with the gritty grime of the subject matter in each case (with the exception of the prologue, which is absurd enough that the color palette can only be bright and attractive). There might be the small issue of the second tale's deflated impact by the final shot, and the blunt cutting between each segment without affording them a title (which might have established its anthological stature even more solidly). But the whole of "Wild Tales" is still completely, insanely entertaining.

Film Information

Ricardo Darin (Simon), Oscar Martinez (Mauricio), Leonardo Sbaraglia (Diego), Erica Rivas (Romina), Diego Gentile (Ariel), Julieta Zylberberg (Moza), Rita Cortese (Cocinera), Maria Marull (Isabel), Dario Grandinetti (Salgado).

Directed and written by Damian Szifron.

Rated R (violence, language, brief sexuality).

122 minutes.

Released in select cities on February 20, 2015.