Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes, 2014) ***1/2

Six short stories, all centered on the theme of revenge, make up this Spanish-language film from Argentina. Better translated as “Savage Tales,” the stand-alone short films are written and directed by Damian Szifron.

“Pasternak” is the tale of a plane full of travelers who discover, to their rising horror, that they share something in common. “Las Ratas” (The Rats) tells the story of a waitress who is presented with the long-hoped-for opportunity for revenge. “El Mas Fuerte” (The Strongest) is about road-rage that escalates out of control. “Bombita” (Little Bomb), starring Ricardo Darin (“The Aura”, “Nine Queens”) is about an explosives engineer with a short fuse who gets fed up with his city's parking enforcement. In “La Propuesta” (The Proposal), a rich kid commits a hit-and-run vehicular homicide, and his parents try to pay someone to take the blame. In the final tale, “Hasta que la Muerte Nos Separe” (Til Death Do Us Part), a bride discovers, during her wedding, her new husband's infidelity, and she wreaks a revenge as dramatic as it is hilarious.

I was highly anticipating this award-winning film, and for the most part I was not disappointed. The stories explore revenge from a variety of angles, with sometimes unpredictable results. They don't always follow the standard Hollywood message about revenge being a futile and destructive enterprise. Some of these characters actually enjoy their payback. The film is, perhaps, a bit uneven. The black humor sometimes just turns black, and the characters in “El Mas Fuerte” and “La Propuesta” are so uniformly unlikeable that those stories are a bit harder to watch. “Bombita,” on the other hand, is a beautiful morality tale that boldly subverts its own premise. The best of the bunch is the finale, “Hasta que la Muerte Nos Separe”. The bride's transformation from heartbroken princess to wild-eyed, wanton Fury is delightful and hilarious.

Montage films like this often link all the stories in some way, sometimes getting a little too cute with it. I like that Damian Szifron didn't do that. Other than the common theme of revenge, the stories here truly stand alone, yet they go quite well together. I had lately been in a drought when it comes to Spanish-language films, and “Wild Tales” was just what I needed.

3.5 stars out of 5

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