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Wild Tales - Film Review

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by Carl Williams (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and photographer living in Sydney.
Published June 5th 2015
Revenge and retribution Argentine style
Spanish movie Wild Tales

'Revenge and retribution Argentine style'

Winner of the best foreign film in the Spanish language at the 2015 Goyas and a nominee for the best foreign-language film at the recent Academy Awards, "Wild Tales" is a dark, sometimes disturbing, and often hilarious selection of six short stories from Argentine director Damian Szifron.

Screened at the recent 2015 Spanish Film Festival, and still showing at the Palace Verona in Paddington and the Dendy Newtown, the film is a roller-coaster ride of revenge and retribution played out through a series of vignettes. Shocking and funny, the film's tempo demands your attention from the start, and is a thoroughly enthralling cinematic experience. Prepare to laugh - often despite your better judgement.

The first story, "Pasternak", opens with two passengers on a plane finding out that they have a common acquaintance Pasternak. And they aren't the only ones on board to know him. As a ripple of collective realisation spreads through the plane, the story takes a darkly comic turn.

Back on terra firma, the second story "The Rats" takes place at a roadside restaurant on a wet and dreary night. A waitress, greeting their first customer of the evening recognises him as the loan shark who was responsible for a tragedy in her family. The waitress, suppressing her anger, shows the customer to a table, and retires to the kitchen where she informs the cook of the role he played in her life. The cook, incensed by the revelation, suggests that rat poison should be added to his food. This outrageous proposal is immediately rejected by the waitress.

The cook, however, ignores the waitresses' protestations and adds the rat poison to his food anyway, only informing the waitress after the food has been served to the ravenous customer, who is already gorging himself on the meal. The subsequent arrival of his son puts the waitress in an unenviable dilemma.

Road rage is the theme of the third story, "The Strongest". Two drivers on a lonely highway get in to an altercation which rapidly escalates to acts of violence by both protagonists. The beautifully crafted end to their battle had the audience laughing out loud.

The fourth story, "Little Bomb", is a truly explosive yarn. Simon (played to perfection by the veteran Argentine actor Ricardo Darin) is a demolition expert that, after having his car towed away, and, as a consequence, arrives late for his daughter's birthday, has what could be best described as a bad day. As his remonstrations and demand for compensation from the towing company amount to nothing, and Simon's is life begins to unravel, you truly feel for him. His revenge on the faceless and merciless company feels both deserved and very apt, and Simon manages to inadvertently elevate himself from helpless victim to popular anti-hero.

The penultimate and possibly darkest of the stories is "The Proposal". After the son of a wealthy family is involved in a hit-and-run on a pregnant woman, the family, with the assistance of their lawyer, hatch a plan to protect their son as well as the family's name. As the plan begins to form, the story provides a window on how extreme circumstances can unleash the darker side of good people.

In the final story, a wedding that no guest will ever likely forget ends on the strangest of notes. In "Until Death Do Us Part", the story begins as wedding celebrations are in full swing - people are smiling, two families are coming together and the happy couple look radiant. As the festivities progress a moment of indiscretion by the bridegroom leads to a confession to his wife while they undertake the customary first dance. What ensues is calamitous and hilarious. Hell hath no fury like an Argentine bride scorned!
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