Sat 15 Aug 2015
‘Relatos salvajes’ (or ‘Wild Tales’ – the title under which the movie was distributed in the English-speaking space) was selected as one of the five candidates for the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year of the Academy in 2015. It did not win, but the very fact that it made it to the prestigious Final Five ensured broader success and world-wide distribution. Some may say that the film was conceived with an eye to the Oscars and festivals circuit, written in a manner that takes much from Almodovar, adds a touch of Tarantino and includes just the needed elements of local color and the gallery of fine actors to allow it to win almost all possible awards in Argentina. Almodovar actually co-produced the film, and his influence is hard to contest (I do not know how much he was involved in the making though). Yet, the wild tales brought to screen by director Damián Szifrón in this film have a quality of their own, a specific grin superposed upon the human approach and the social engagement that characterizes the best South-American films, whatever genre they belong to.
‘Wild Tales’ is a collection of stories, and if I need to define what is common among them is the fact that in all of them more or less ordinary people face day-to-day challenges that they are unable to deal with and as a result they turn into escalating spirals of conflict and violence, all managed with a good dose of black humor. The script and the director are merciless with their heroes and the stories do not end until the characters are brought to or beyond the verge of insanity. For none of them (those who survive) life will not be at the end the same as at the beginning. As viewers we can easily identify with the driver harassed by a hooligan with a truck on a deserted road, with the engineer who is late at his daughter’s birthday because of an unjust parking ticket, or with the bride who discovers at the wedding party that her fresh husband not only cheated on her, but also invited ‘that woman’ at the wedding. We can understand why they go crazy and why they end by doing the most unreasonable acts. Most important at all ,we can laugh about these.
The humor, the empathetic view and the social touch are the arguments that make out of the Argentinian director’s collection of stories much more that a pastiche of Almodovar’s movies. Acting is very good and each one of the characters adds its own piece to a puzzle of contemporary Argentina, a country that I know too little about. ‘Wild Tales’ are entertaining and worth to look for, and director Damián Szifrón is a name to follow.