Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Wild Tales": Six short films from Argentina give the moviegoer a roller coaster ride

The vignette sextet “Wild Tales” (“Relatos salvajes”) by Argentinian director Damian Szifron,  and produced by Pedro and Augustin Almodovar) indeed gives the movie goer a wild ride of black comedy, often culminating in revenge and perverse violence. They are a bit in the "grindhouse" genre.  

The film does not name the stories until the closing credits, and I had to translate the Spanish “titles” freely as I watched and memorize them as best I could. (My Spanish knowledge comes from the movies and one brief course in Dallas during the Cuban refugee “crisis” in 1980; it seems that Latin American Spanish is more idiomatic and harder to follow than the Spanish from Madrid. But, when I was substitute teaching – kids, don’t assume I you talk in Spanish I don’t hear you!)
Pasternak” plays before the opening credits, and is the shortest and simplest film.  Passengers on a flight approaching Buenos Aries start discussing a misfit artist, particularly as a music critic excoriates a classical composition “Pasternak” had submitted.  Other people overhear him, and soon it’s clear that everybody on the plane knows this misfit Pasternak, before it goes down.  The idea of a failed artist is disturbing – that’s how Hitler’s life started.
Payback’s a Bitch” (that’s a favorite aphorism from “Days of our Lives”) gives us a waitress (Julietta Zylerberg) serving eggs and fries to a loan shark who had destroyed her family, when another, obese cook (Rita Cortese) insists on poisoning the customer (and his son, who drops in this stormy night).
Road Rage” gives us a contest between characters played by Leonardo Sbaraglia and Walter Donaldo, near a stream overpass in the spectacular mineral-bearing Andes foothills, and it gets gruesome. The audience laughed with this one more than any of the others.
Bombita” gives us a demolition engineer (Ricardo Darin) who explodes at city bureaucracy after he is towed.  Let’s say he doesn’t harm anyone, only property. This short gets well into the corruption of Argentinian politics. The film gives us spectacular day shots of Buenos Aries.
The Bill” (or “The Proposal”) gives us a bourgeois man (Oscar Martinez) trying to protect his immature and spoiled (“affluenza”) son who has killed a pregnant woman and unborn child with a hit-run leaving a (gay) bar.  The media coverage has the public in a fury.  The land baron will bribe a low level groundskeeper to take the rap, and go to jail, for enough money for the rest of his life.  The police doubt the story, and the son wants to come clean (but he wouldn’t survive in prison).  But as the set-up guy leaves, the vigilantes come with the machetes.  This is the darkest tale, and it seems intended to carry on the theme of corruption from the previous tale.  It’s probably the most important (and longest) of the six films.
’Till Death Do Us Part” is the yielding commitment that everyone makes as a wedding vow, and one of the reasons marriage has always existed in a matrix of social support that gives it meaning.  At a wedding party, the bride finds out from cell phone spoofing that her groom (Diego Gentile) had just cheated on her.  (That reminds me of Will and Sonny, both with Paul, on “Days of our Lives”).  A comic ruckus ensues, involving fights, injuries, a suicide threat, vomiting, and general mayhem.  At the end, the party goes on and the couple makes up, which I did not expect.

The official site is here  Sony Pictures Classics distributes it in the US. Sony (Columbia Pictures) has been aggressive in acquiring the hardest hitting independent films, foreign and domestic. 
Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. photo by “Own Work” of Quebrada de Cafayate, similar scenery to what appears in the “road rage” sequence, here

I saw this at the AMC Shirlington in Arlington VA before a fair late Friday crowd on a cold, icy night.  The film was nominated for best foreign Language Film.  The audience applauded.  

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