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Friday, June 19, 2015

Wild Tales

A multi-story feature film is not a very popular genre among cine lovers. For one, having to conclude one story and then start with another story in the very next frame, interrupts the often pensive and illusory effect of the movie. And the other obvious reason is the unevenness that seeps into the film: some stories will always be better than the others, especially if multiple film makers are involved in the project. Despite these inherent drawbacks of the multi-story feature film genre, Wild Tales packs a surprise punch and comes across as a bizarre revelation.

Wild Tales is a ludicrous anthology of six stories revolving around the central theme of violence and vengeance. It is a comic take on human behavior at its extreme. Director Damian Szifron shows the audience that it is a mad, mad world we live in where if we are pushed a little or close to the edge, we are all too eager to do the worst to other.  This black comedy is filled with cynicism, with its brilliance lying in its combination of excess violence and ordinary scenarios. The violence is showcased in such a manner that even though extreme, it borders on being preposterous and outrageous. Having only one commonality, which is the theme, Szifrom says that the six stories are “the undeniable pleasure of losing control.”

Each of the stories begins mundanely until they take a Roald Dahl-ish twist which unsettles the audience. The first story is about an unexpected reunion on an airplane. Midflight, everyone on the plane realizes that everyone on board has one common acquaintance: ‘Pastarnak’, as is the name of the segment. The look of anxiety and shock of all the passengers when the airhostess announces that the co pilot is named Paternek and has locked himself in the cockpit is both funny and scary at the same time.

The next story –‘The Rats’ raises a very practical question: Once rat poison is past its expiry date, does it become more or less potent? The backdrop of this dilemma is shown to be a young woman’s desire to see her father’s oppressor punished when he walks into the diner she works at. While at one hand she wants to see the corrupt official who drove her father to suicide suffer, but at the same time she is aware of the consequence of her desire.

‘Road to Hell’ is a masterful combination of road rage and class conflict.  When a snazzy corporate fellow in his new Audi sports car overtakes a country driver in his old pick up, what ensues is mindless chaos and mayhem. 

The next two stories – ‘Little Bomb’ and ‘The Proposal’ is soaked in social satire where Szifron showcases indignation at the complacency and unresponsiveness of Argentina’s ruling classes. Simon Fischer a law abiding demolition expert vows to extract appropriate revenge when his car is towed and he is forced to pay both a fine and some more to release his car even though the space was not marked as tow away zone. ‘The Proposal’ is every rich parents’ nightmare. The parents are woken up in the middle of the night by a sobbing son, who has been drinking and has hit a pregnant woman and run from the scene. Enter the family lawyer, who hatches a plan with the father to have the family gardener take blame for the crime in return for half a million dollars. The father agrees, until he is asked by the lawyer, the prosecutor and the other investigators to be given pay offs as well. As an expert negotiator, the father manages not to get swindled by the corrupt officials while at the same time keeping his son from going to prison.
Like all Shakespeare’s comedies, the last story of Wild Tales involves a wedding. The wedding becomes a sexual transgression and a tale of vengeance when the bride gets to know that the groom had slept with a wedding guest. It is a story of love and jealousy that blows up the wedding. 

The opening credits are rolled out with a series of images of wild animals – a hawk, a bear, a tiger. The implication is that the audience will see the grizzly nature of man and that within every man resides a beast. But animals aren’t interested in vengeance; it is only humans who strive for such egomaniacal savagery.

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