Thursday, February 19, 2015

“Wild Tales”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a screening by The New York Times Film Club of the Argentinian comedy-drama “Wild Tales”, which has an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.


“Wild Tales” is a movie comprised of six unrelated segments, the theme of which is the more negative aspects of the human condition.


Segment 1: With an airplane full of people, two strangers – a runway model and a music critic – begin chatting and soon discover that they know the same person, a young man who failed at his aspirations to start a music career. Eventually, they find out that everyone on the plane knows this man and the flight attended announces that he’s a steward who’s now locked himself into the cockpit and is piloting the airliner. Will he crash the aircraft or can one of his acquaintances talk him out of it in time?

Segment 2: A young woman who works as a waitress at a roadside restaurant is shocked when one of her customers turns out to be a gangster who ruined her family’s life years earlier. Amazingly, he does not remember her, but nevertheless treats her shabbily. When the restaurant’s cook suggests they poison him, will they put rat poison in his food or will she talk the cook out of murdering him?

Segment 3: When a wealthy man in a fancy new car insults a careless driver weaving along the road, he is suddenly forced to confront the man when his car breaks down. But when their confrontation turns increasingly violent, which one of them will emerge as the victor?

Segment 4: Once an explosives engineer has his car unnecessarily towed by the city, he decides to fight the bureaucracy which he thinks is out to get him. With his wife having left him for missing their daughter’s birthday due to the latest towing incident, he becomes completely unraveled. But will he go so far as to use his experience with bombs to exact revenge on the government that he feels ruined his life?

Segment 5: After a young man returns home to inform his wealthy father that he’s killed a couple of people as the result of a drunk driving accident, the father desperately tries to buy his son’s way out of a potential prison term. But when the lawyers collude to extort millions of dollars from him, will the father still fight for his son or allow him to do time so he can keep his money?

Segment 6: At a wedding reception, the bride learns that not only did her new husband cheat on her while they were engaged, but that the woman with whom he had the affair is also a guest at the party. Exploding with rage, she chooses to exact revenge on both the woman and her husband by turning the function into a scene of senseless violence. But will the couple divorce or figure out a way to remain married?


Given that the name of this blog has the word “nihilist” in its title, how is it possible to dislike a movie such as “Wild Tales”?  It is dark, it is bleak and its basic message is that “people are no damned good”.  What’s not to like?  This misanthropic string of fairy tales is delightful for those who truly believe deep down that no one can be trusted; if this sounds like something that would drastically shake up your entire belief system and delicate sensibilities, then avoid it at all costs.  Right-thinking members of the public, however, will gleefully rejoice at the reassurance of that which you already knew all too well. 

As horrifying and disturbing as it is funny, “Wild Tales” is the blackest of all comedies and quite deserving of its nomination.  In one way or another, each story in this movie seems to focus on the thought of revenge taken by individuals who are genuinely frustrated and find themselves at the end of their respective rope.  With people so far out of control and with such violent tendencies, this is a recipe for some truly extraordinarily bad behavior – which makes for an insanely entertaining (not to mention therapeutic)film.    

If there is anything to criticize about “Wild Tales”, it would be how each vignette is separated – or perhaps more to the point, not separated.  One can never be exactly sure when each sketch has actually ended, so it’ll take you a minute or so in order to figure out that a new and completely different story is being told when the new segment begins.  This is particularly true of the first story, which is told before the opening credits roll; once the credits have finished, the second tale begins – but at first, you’re not quite sure if it’s a new segment or a continuation of what was going on prior to the credits.  What might have been useful here is the use of title cards in between each scene so the audience would unambiguously know when a new scene is beginning and the previous one concluded. 


Wild Tales (2014) on IMDb

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