Take a walk on the Wild Tales
by Domenico La Porta
- CANNES 2014: Cannes offers a fun and laid-back film and welcomes a newcomer to its competition in the form of the Argentine director Damián Szifron
Many burst out laughing during the screening of Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes) [+see also:
film profile] in the official competition of the 67th Cannes Film Festival. It has to be said that this co-production between Argentina and Spain produced — among others — by Pedro Almodóvar proudly displays a very different tone to that of its competitors. The opening scene is quite simply an astonishing example of the effectiveness of narration. It propels this film from Argentine Damián Szifron (author of a successful TV series in Argentina) at breakneck speed. Rather than scenes, we should talk about narratives, five in total in a film of shorts in the purest tradition of Tales From The Crypt or The Twilight Zone.
Each story is linked to the next only by its theme: the fragile boundary between civilisation and barbarity, and the moment when everyone can be pushed to cross it. Who are these new savages? They are not the notorious psychopaths or sociopaths, but your everyday Mr and Mrs all-and-sundry who are immediately driven crazy by the irony of daily life. A man (played by Ricardo Darin) revolts against the system after his car is taken to the pound the day of his daughter’s birthday. Another (who will remain invisible) decides, in one fell swoop, to get rid of all the people who have done him wrong during his life. A waitress who works nights finds herself faced with the unique opportunity to avenge her family, ruined by an unscrupulous mafia gangster, while drivers on a deserted road become involved in an absurd fight to the death following an inappropriate gesture at the wheel. In the last part of the film, a rich father tries to cover up his son’s guilt after he commits a tragic hit-and-run, but he, in turn, becomes victim to the venality of his friends and family. Finally, a wedding celebration turns into a night in hell when the bride discovers that her husband is having an affair with one of the guests...
There is undeniably a joyful pleasure in discovering the playful escalation exhibited by the majority of the stories which operate on identification with the victims-come-persecutors, but Wild Tales doesn’t contradict the saying that the shortest films are often the best. Szifron, moreover, begins with three shorts that are simply excellent before focusing on the last two, which concentrate on creating tension and lose in intensity what they gain in duration and in the psychology of the characters. At this point, the viewer knows that the story is going to go into a tailspin, and all the suspense rests on the anticipation, which should be rationed. In fact, the strength of the conclusions disappoints a little at the end, but Wild Tales succeeds as a film of shorts, more often found in genre films. It’s entertaining and subdued, and it’s a pure moment of rock’n’roll fun which could have perhaps been better placed in a Special Screening, rather than in the Official Competition of the Cannes Film Festival. Not because it’s a film made up of shorts (like Uncle Boonmee was previously), nor because it verges on black comedy and slapstick comedy (Death Proof did likewise), but because the film achieves all of its potential as an (essential!) break between the work of the authors and less so as a reel placed on the pile between a Nuri Bilge Ceylan and a Bertrand Bonello.
(Translated from French)