I know we are only in March, but I doubt I will see a more scathingly funny movie this year. ‘Wild Tales’ is guaranteed a spot on my Top 10 Films of 2015. As far as multi-story feature films go, this is the ultimate. Such a superlative can mischaracterize the film’s qualities – it may appear, from the outset, that I am congratulating the picture for clearing a low bar. This is, after all, a film in a disreputable genre: one story ends, another begins, and ends, and begins, and the cyclic episodic nature becomes taxing on the viewer, especially if some stories are better than others and multiple filmmakers are involved. Even if ‘Wild Tales’ is judged by its weakest link, it is still an impressive feat – all six stories rank among the best of short films I’ve ever seen, but viewed in succession as a full-length feature, the results are extraordinarily cohesive and ferociously entertaining.
The reason these various stories feel of apiece, I suspect, is because they all are held in perfect check by one filmmaker, 39-year-old Damián Szifron, and is thus represented by an exclusively unique vision. This is a filmmaker to be reckoned with. The aggregated wallop demonstrates the symbiotic effect of a master storyteller with a sharp pen for dialogue. From an aesthetics standpoint, Mr. Szifron knows how to shoot physical comedy and he injects the proceedings with an assured, smoothly refined visual style. I can’t remember the last great looking comedy I saw.
‘Wild Tales’ was nominated for the Best Foreign-Language Oscar (but lost to ‘Ida’ from Poland). Apples and oranges. All five of the nominees appear to be tragedies rooted in the now and have a profound sense of place. ‘Wild Tales’ differs from the other titles in its competition due its structure and its playfulness in synthesizing comedy with tragedy. I really hope this movie finds an audience. Those who plan on avoiding ‘Wild Tales’ because of its Spanish subtitles are depriving themselves of an amazing theatrical experience.
Delivering on the promise suggested by its title, there are six wild tales to be found here amounting to 122 minutes of screen time. All of them are engrossing and punctuated with mordacious black humor. The common themes running throughout these chapters, each built around an SOB, are revenge and retribution. The first story and prologue will be forever remembered by this reviewer as one of the great movie openings in the histories du cinema. Things get off to a high-flying start (when you see it, you’ll know what I mean), and its manic intensity is maintained throughout as each story becomes progressively more dilatant, complex, and piercing in political satire. This is an all-encompassing, brilliantly performed snapshot of violence motivated by a sense of entitlement, past trauma, male ego, a failed legislative system, exploiting the poor, and romantic enviousness. The body count must be on a par with the latest Liam Neeson movie ‘Run All Night’.
In my reviews of films from the last three years, I’ve often stated that I consider this to be a golden era of cinema. Even in this golden age, I occasionally feel as though cinema is imbued by a sense of fear – a fear of being reckless. All too often, the treatment is safe, and Academy voters tend to recognize the safe projects. I think Mr. Szifron understands what I mean here because he has constructed a satirical farce so deliciously merciless that it makes you wonder if he is able to get away with it in Argentina, why such pointedness is lacking within domestic product.
I had to delete a huge chunk of my review. By offering a synopsis of each of the six chapters, I’m spoiling the entire thing for you. Part of what made this a joyous experience for myself was being able to discover it on my own. Is this an admission of being unable to copiously review the movie? I dunno. I wrote a spoiler review for ‘Gone Girl’, which was posted during the second week of its release – many people had seen it by then. Not many Western audiences outside of the film festival circuit have seen ‘Wild Tales’. It was, however, the top grossing film of Argentina last year and kudos to Sony Picture Classics for picking this up at the Toronto International Film Festival. If there’s one movie playing in theaters right now that you should see, this is it. It’s all very crazy. And a tad scary for its happy ending. But in the best possible way. ‘Wild Tales’ is the best picture of 2015 so far. QED.