Monday, 21 August 2017

filmbore picks Wild Tales

Wild Tales

Director: Damián Szifron

Screenplay: Damián Szifron
Starring: Erica Rivas, Ricardo Darin, Leonardo Sbaraglia
Year: 2014
Language: Spanish
UK rental release: June 2015

Rotten Tomatoes

The hiatus is over!

It's time for filmbore to reemerge from hibernation and return to the fold. It's been a crazy year and a half, with many events and goings-on, the finale of which was marrying the most beautiful, intelligent and hilarious person in the world...Mrs.filmbore!

Therefore, it's relevant that I talk about a wedding movie, such as the Oscar nominated Wild Tales. And who knows...maybe I'll experience a few things I missed in my own adventure into wedlock...

Welcomed by a low shot of a rushing airline passenger, we're invited to join them on an exciting journey. Famous model, Isabel (Maria Marull, Before Opening Night, Primavera), is unaware of the flirting charm about to be bestowed on her by her neighbouring passenger, classic music critic Salgado (Dario Grandinetti, Talk To Her, The Dark Side Of The Heart).

After some coquettish chat, something peculiar happens; another passenger overhears the mention of a mutual acquaintance. When the three of them discuss this, another traveller realises that they have the same connection. This continues, starting a chain reaction through the whole plane. How can they all be connected by just one man? Is the flight a ruse, with a deeper meaning at hand?

But this is just the first story in this compendium of revenge, as further tales of tension await us.  Like the waitress, startled by appearance of a demon from her past. The pain he has caused her family beyond humane, he now sits in her restaurant, unaware of her vengeful presence.

Or Diego (Leonardo Sbaraglia, Intacto, Burnt Money), cursing a reckless driver intentionally setting out to annoy him. He speeds ahead to leave the scoundrel in his wake, only to suffer the bad luck of a flat tire shortly after, fearful for the reappearance of his antagonist. Inevitably turning up shortly after, this tarmac tyrant proceeds to attack Diego's vehicle. Will he attack him next? Does Diego escape or does he retaliate?

Then we have Simón (Ricardo Darin, The Secret In Their Eyes, Nine Queens), an explosion specialist on his way to pick up his daughter's birthday cake. Alarmed at the price of the cake, he's even more startled that to find his car has towed away. Now running late for his kid's party, met with obstacle upon obstacle, he becomes convinced that the 'system' is against him as events escalate; his own inner explosions to a self generating conspiracy.

Or even our unforgettable finale, which opens with jubilation at the entrance of our bride and groom. Romina (Erica Rivas, Incident Light, Lock Charmer) sees her new husband chatting to a mystery lady. They seem a little too close. She begins to suspect unfair play. How should she deal with this on her special day?

As our six protagonists are left to deal with their circumstances, we lay waiting to see how wild they should truly go.

Before watching a film, I try to avoid any plot lines, like the ones you see on the back of DVD covers. They can implant preconceptions that can affect viewing. After reading the above synopsis you may have realised that this is not solely about a wedding. Only one of the stories is. It dawned on me at about 20 minutes that the wedding shown on the front cover of the DVD was just a small part of this entire story. So much for my plan on avoiding the plot here then!

The marriage-factor may be the reason I chose this feature but, even though this isn't the focus, I'm not disappointed at all. The entire picture is a constant stream of canapés, subtly satisfying your appetite through it's well balanced journey. It's no wonder it picked up the gongs that it did (including BAFTA's and Goya's). It was optioned for the Palme d'Or at Cannes too, where it debuted, helping the feature garner some well deserved attention.

The beginning of this adventure, 'Pasternak', demonstrates a different kind of attention. After a young gentleman ogles over our model, Isobel, much to her discomfort, it is in fact the older gentleman she meets next who flirts with more success. By showing here that it's not age that's attractive but charm and sophistication, this creative picture immediately grounds itself in reality. It's a smart move that few films manage to do so delicately and simply.

Such wit and allure can only be carried by a cast that has the talent to bear it, and it's in these performances that Wild Tales really shines. All players involved are truly superb. In fact, it's quite difficult to pinpoint specific performances with so many involved. They are all truly outstanding. You're likely draw out your own favourites, dependant on your taste. If I had to select my standouts: Oscar Martinez (Empty NestThe Distinguished Citizen) in 'The Deal' really moved me, as did Julieta Zylberberg (The Tenth ManThe Invisible Eye) in 'The Rats'. The most exciting performers, however, have to be both Ricardo Darin in 'Bombita', and the unforgettable Erica Rivas in 'Til Death Do Us Part'.

This latter chapter is welcomed and much needed after some of the gloom, deftly delivered in the previous acts. There are small nuggets of humour and lightness strewn throughout the whole picture, even if these morsels struggle to hold ground amongst all of the drama. This is a movie that knows when to take itself seriously and it doesn't falter in getting your attention while doing so. Yet, this wedding based finale re-balances the gravitas of the previous vignettes while still retaining the level of darkness required to justify it's existence in this compendium.

To be honest though, this is not a true portmanteau movie. Each vignette could stand alone as a short, and maybe this was purposeful. Nevertheless, while fantastic, all the tales don't operate as a whole. They seem a little disconnected. Disjointed, even. You may be wondering what the link between the segments is. You may start out, as I did, thinking there's a connection about travelling, until you realise that it's not.

It's just as difficult to pin down it's thematic approach. There's a chance that I just missed it. I played with a number of ideas, including unpredictability, antagonism fuelling revenge (too obvious!), even the detrimental outcomes of making the darker choice. None really fit though. If the core themes were more recognisable, I feel they would help solve the issue of the picture's connectivity and making it a proper portmanteau flick instead of a fortunate compilation.

A benefit of taking this approach does allows for a plethora of different filming styles though. We're presented with a noir, a thriller, a car chase and many more. It brings a wonderment of variety and floods of creative filming and editing techniques; you'll forget that this was made by one director. 

Cinematographer, Javier Julia, takes advantage of this, dressing the picture with all manner of angles, while allowing hints of the unconventional. Take the opening cowboy shot of Isabel running through the airport, or the claustrophobic shots in the car chase of the third tale, 'Road To Hell' to marry up with your usual collection of POV's and low angle shots. With experimental shooting and some delicious framing, it's a visually brave film.

All of these methods deliver some delicious imagery; a hand clasped across a lady's face, gripped for abuse, slowly withers as her attacker perishes, embracing the victim in his own blood. The camera pans up to an aerial shot of our two victims, lying in the wake of their battle, fixed in posture like silhouetted dancers. It's a strangely pretty film, finding beauty even within its more darker edges.

It doesn't hold its punches either. Take the in-car fight scene in 'The Road To Hell': it may not have the level of choreography but it's got enough gusto to challenge the now infamous car scene most will have seen last year in Deadpool (2016). It's nowhere near as clipped as it's Marvel counterpart, but it's just as funny, end even more claustrophobic and brutal! 

Not afraid to show some 'claret'  and ferocity when necessary, Wild Tales is full of surprises, and heavy ones too. It drags you through its rough-and-ready journey but not reluctantly. It teases your intrigue, enticing you to join the ride. Just be prepared...this road's a little bumpy!

So, did I find anything new that could have improved my wedding? Did it garner any life lessons to take on my own adventure of marriage? Absolutely not. The wedding in this is an absolute shambles!

Thankfully though, the film isn't. Yes, the tales do feel a little disparate to each other but they certainly live up to the garb of 'Wild'. Each story is eloquently crafted, deserving award and praise in their own right. We're just fortunate enough to get to see all of these wonderful pieces in one gloriously delivered whole.

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