Directed by: Damián Szifrón.
Written by: Damián Szifrón.
Starring: Darío Grandinetti (Salgado), María Marull (Isabel), Mónica Villa (Profesora Leguizamón), Rita Cortese (Cocinera), Julieta Zylberberg (Moza), César Bordón (Cuenca), Leonardo Sbaraglia (Diego), Walter Donado (Mario), Ricardo Darín (Simón), Nancy Dupláa (Victoria), Oscar Martínez (Mauricio), María Onetto (Helena), Osmar Núñez (Lawyer), Germán de Silva (Casero), Erica Rivas (Romina), Diego Gentile (Ariel).
The brief opening segment of Wild Tales sets the tone for the five shorts that will follow. A pair of people – a model and a music critic – are talking on a plane when they realize they have a tenuous connection. At one point, the model was dating a classical composer – things ended badly, but she assures the critic she still likes him – when the critic asks for her ex’s name – you know, just in case he has heard of him. She assures the critic he hasn’t – he was a failed composer after all, but tells him anyway. Shocked, the critic announces, that yes, in fact he does know him. He once submitted his work to a panel the critic was on – and the critic ripped it to shreds. It was laughably horrible. Then, gradually, the other passengers on the plane overhear the conversation, and realize that they too know the man they are talking about, and they tell their story about him. It is a virtual tour of hilarious misery, as no one has much nice to say about the man. And then, with dawning horror, the passengers figure out why they are all one the plane together – but by then it’s too late.
This opening sequence, which is the briefest of the 6 shorts that make up the movie, sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The sequence is dark and disturbing, but also hilarious, highly stylized and entertaining as hell. The film moves at a brisk clip throughout, and never overstays its welcome in any one segment – even when one threatens to, it’s because writer director Damian Szifron isn’t quite done screwing with you yet.
The first story is the most overtly comic (although given recent events with airplanes, it takes on darker tone than was perhaps intended) – but all of them have an element of comedy mixed in with the bloody drama. The story of a young waitress whose only customer on a dark and stormy night is the man who destroyed her father – and cook who says they should get revenge. Another about an upper class guy in a luxury car, who flips off a “redneck” in a pickup on a desolate stretch of highway – and then has to face him again when his car breaks down. The longest is about a man (Argentinian star Ricardo Darin) who gets a parking ticket, ruining his day, and eventually his life, as he tries to fight the bureaucracy. The darkest is about a rich man trying to pay his gardener to take the fall when the rich man’s son kills a pregnant woman in a hit and run accident. The film ends with a delirious segment at a wedding where the bride discovers her new husband is cheating on her. Most directors would end this one with the wife getting revenge with a cook on a rooftop – but Szifron is just getting started.
The stories are not about good guys and bad guys – but about flawed people, who are both good and bad, or perhaps neither. You may often find your loyalties switching from one character to another during any one segment – and if I’m being honest, most of them ended with me thinking that everyone involved are horrible, spiteful people – who more often than not get what they deserve.
So, yes, the picture of humanity that Wild Tales paints is dark and pessimistic. But the movie hardly is. Szifron is a natural filmmaker, and his film is highly stylized, moves at lightning speed, and is often hilarious in addition to disturbing. I’m not sure Wild Tales really adds up to very much – I don’t think it has anything on its mind, rather to entertain with its portrait of horrible people doing horrible things in the most entertaining way imaginable. And in that, it succeeds brilliantly.