AKA Relatos Savajes
(Damián Szifrón, 2014)
A set of six short stories, each a pitch black comedy of violence or quiet horror, Wild Tales is a tremendously assured and confident film. It begins with the shortest tale, when a meet-cute on a Buenos Aires to Spain flight leads to a dawning realisation that every single person on board the plane is there because they know and have upset the same man. That ends with a big laugh, then the credits are droll too, and we already know we are in good hands.
Szifrón can do slick, he can do stylish, but his storytelling is economical and classical, and that is what really sells Wild Tales. Each story establishes itself with efficiency within a minute or so, and then each is gripping, funny, and wonderfully made. Best is probably the second, a story of road rage in the Argentine desert, which starts off with shades of Spielberg's Duel, but ends up in horrible if hysterical violence by way of the Road Runner. But the others are of similarly high quality: most notably the worst wedding party in history in the last tale and Ricardo Darin locked in a Kafka-esque battle with the bureaucracy of the parking ticket system in Buenos Aires in the third.
It never feels monotonous, either. If Szifrón reworks and revisits some overarching themes (these stories all turn on people trapped in one way or another, claustrophobia and revenge), then he always makes sure that each story has a radically different setting and visual scheme. The first takes place almost entirely within an airplane, the second in a roadside restaurant late at night, the third in the desert and two cars, the fourth all over the Argentinian capital (but mainly in it's bureaucratic offices and queues), the fifth inside the modern house of a seriously wealthy family and the last mainly inside the function room of a huge hotel. Each location is rendered with a great eye for detail and mood, which alters impeccably as these tales fade to black and and a new one begins.
The cast contains a few Argentine big-hitters (Leonardo Sbaraglia and Maria Onetto will be most recognisable to International audiences) but everyone is excellent, the photography is lovely, and Gustavo Santaolalla seems to be channelling 1980s Ennio Morricone for his score.