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Wild Tales - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Wild Tales
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: A-

Would it be hyperbole to say that Wild Tales starts off spectacularly? Maybe. But only barely.

I refer here to the prologue, the first of six tales written and directed by Damián Szifrón, in whose native Argentinia this is already the most-watched film of all time. Often there is a wide disparity between what is most popular and what is of highest quality, but here that gap is unusually narrow. It could be said that Wild Tales lacks a certain amount of depth, but damn is it fun to watch, thanks to snappy writing and exceptional editing.

There is even a surprising consistency among the six tales offered here. At roughly two hours, each tale averages about twenty minutes, in essence making this a collection of shorts. Each year's batch of Oscar-nominated shorts tends to be far more uneven.

But back to that beginning: "Pasternak" is this tale's name, and also the name of the unseen character we ultimately discover is what everyone on an airplane has in common. I won't spoil it by revealing any more, except to say its ending could not be more perfect, either for the tale itself or as the lead-in to the wonderful title sequence, which features a succession of still shots of wild animals.

Some interesting cinematography choices are made, even as early as this prologue: a shot from the point of view of an open overhead bin. In a later tale, the camera swerves backward along with a swinging door on its hinges. I'm not sure these choices make any kind of statement, but they do add to the fun. And even as this happens, attention to background detail is often rewarded. Szifrón is no lazy filmmaker.

"Pasternak" is followed by "The Rats," about a couple of women in a restaurant kitchen arguing over whether to poison the sole customer who turns out to have ruined one of their lives. "The Strongest" is an apropos title for what is indeed one of the strongest tales here, about two men of disparate socio-economic backgrounds escalating road rage to an unexpected and amusingly ironic conclusion. "Little Bomb" deals with a demolitions expert with a temper and his slow-building fury at getting his car impounded unfairly multiple times. "The Proposal," the weakest of the bunch, regards a rich family's attempt at using money to get their kid off the hook after a hit and run with a pregnant woman. But even that one winds up a solid tale on its own terms once it reaches its end.

Szifrón saves the best for last, a fantastic tale of a couple working out issues of infidelity at their own wedding. That sounds cliche but this isn't like any other such tale you've seen before, with its themes of violence, vengeance and even redemption -- all with a singular thread of humor.

The deliciously dark humor, indeed, is what makes Wild Tales worth watching more than anything. It's what all six tales have in common, with a splash of subtle irony as all these characters find ways to fight injustices either real or perceived, with varying amounts of efficiency and effectiveness.

All six tales are tightly polished, solid shorts with unexpected twists. It may not be new for shorts to hinge on plot twists, but Szifrón always arrives at them with unusual finesse. There are no cheap laughs or easy gags, which means in most cases some time must be spent on build-up. This only makes where the stories end up more satisfying. Most American comedy writers could learn something from a movie like this.

wild tales

Overall: B+
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