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Sony Pictures // R // February 20, 2015
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
The anthology film has been receiving a lot of discussion lately. If one was to marathon a sample of these often stylized motion pictures, that individual would be left with a lot of iffy material. The majority of the recent entries are from the horror genre, such as V/H/S and The ABCs of Death. Who knew that Argentina's official selection for the "Best Foreign Language" category for the Academy Awards could be included in the same paragraph? Well, writer/director Damián Szifrón's Wild Tales takes a darkly comedic, yet dramatically tense turn towards a feature that hopes to create a true cinematic experience for its audiences. If you're looking for something to truly surprise you at the theaters this year, then you can stop your search here.
Featuring six seemingly separate stories, writer/director Damián Szifrón connects them with the themes of anger, vengeance, and violence. Sometimes we all get a little mad, but these short stories display what happens when an individual is driven to absolute madness, and erupts into a blind rage. Wild Tales connects its insanity with different leads that are driven mad for a variety of different reasons, although society remains at the center of the discussion.
The first story might be the shortest, but it most certainly isn't the least effective. Two absolute strangers get to talking while seated on an airplane, as they soon discover that their lives are connected. What we're left with is an absolutely hilarious vignette that gets the film off to an outstanding start. Szifrón doesn't waste any time by going right for the funny bone before the opening credits even begin to roll. Those who walked in without knowing what to expect will be floored by a bold and ridiculous sense of humor that manages to be so effective within such a short period of time. And to think, this isn't even the best of what Wild Tales has to offer. In the next story, we move into a diner where a young waitress recognizes a customer as the man who drove her father to suicide, and her co-worker suggests revenge in the most extreme way possible. The protagonist's moral struggles are truly what make this vignette so fascinating, but it involves a certain comedic element that ultimately works quite well. The third vignette is funny, exciting, and surprisingly successful in the goals that it strives for. A new Audi driver "flips off" a redneck driver, which ultimately places them in a fight to the death, using anything possible as a weapon. This is brutal entertainment that perfectly captures the rage between drivers on the road, regardless of what country they're in.
In the fourth story, a man finds his wife and daughter drifting farther and farther away from him by the moment. On the day of his young daughter's birthday, his car is unfairly impounded, and this hard-working father and husband is willing to do whatever it takes to receive a refund for the money that he had to pay in order to get his car back. This short infuses more of a situational bit of comedy, as he begins to burst through the seams as he continues to protest against the company's unjust operations. Next up, we follow an insanely rich family, whose son just killed a pregnant woman by running her over, only to drive away. The entire entry consists of the family and a few outside sources attempting to scheme the use of a scapegoat in order to point the blame out of the adolescent's direction, but everybody seems to want a cut of the family's fortune. This is perhaps the least effective short in the film's duration, as it runs on for a little bit too long, only to repeat the same message repeatedly. This brings us to our final story, which is set at what just might be the most insane wedding reception that you'll ever see on film. With deception and emotions running high, a demonstration of vengeance is unleashed in front of the friends and family of the newlyweds. If any of these short vignettes will have you with your jaw on the ground in utter shock, it's going to be this one.
Fortunately, Damién Szifrón is a very smart man, as he doesn't even bother with creating a framing device. Rather than trying to connect the stories in a narrative fashion to poor results, he has opted for allowing them to be associated by their themes and motifs, which proves to be a massively successful way of executing the anthology style of filmmaking. Vengeance, anger, and violence are all things that we can relate to, especially if you live in Los Angeles. Each time that a new vignette begins, we're eagerly awaiting what will cause the next individual to snap. This makes for a consistently exciting moviegoing experience that constantly manipulates our expectations by turning them on their heads. This is execution that we never get the opportunity to see in modern anthology filmmaking. Not only are the story ideas wonderfully unique, but the film serves us with a range of human emotions that allow the film to thrive.
The visuals do an outstanding job of representing the material through the cinematography, music, and editing. When it comes to the color palette, Wild Tales has a bright look to it that supports Szifrón's overall tone, but he isn't afraid to work with vibrant colors when they're called upon. The music choices might appear to be random, although it further adds to the ridiculous atmosphere that the film achieves on all fronts. Editing requires a certain rhythm, especially when there is humor involved, and the timing here is great. Szifrón does an excellent job providing this picture with a complete look that compliments the material, rather than working against it.
Needless to say, Wild Tales is absolutely bonkers, but in a good way. It manages to utilize themes and motifs in order to connect the various six vignettes that are showcased within the film's running time. While some are better than others, this is still a strong collection of stories that explore anger, vengeance, and violence in a way rarely seen on the silver screen. When combined with a genuinely good sense of humor, this is a roller coaster of a film that simply never wants to let up. We all feel like going crazy every now and then, and this is a motion picture that works with these very real human emotions, and puts them under the microscope. It all just comes together so surprisingly well. Wild Tales certainly earns its title, and wears it with pride. Highly recommended!
Wild Tales will be playing at AFI Fest 2014 on November 8th and November 10th.