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22 02 2018

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Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheila Seacroft   
31 03 2015

ImageDirected by Damián Szifron

Portmanteau films - collections of different stories that may or may not be connected - don't come along that often these days. Their particular pleasure is that if one element doesn't take your fancy, there's always another. Not that that's a problem in this entertaining assembly of madcap tales of mayhem and rage from Argentina, where ordinary folk let rip at people, things and organisations they feel have it in for them. The trigger may be something slight - a casual insult, a clamping - or sometimes life-changing, but each is a chance to explode the civilised bubble we live in. And how precarious that bubble is. Produced by Pedro Almodóvar, it bears all his hallmarks of flamboyant lust for life and exuberance, and, maybe, a touch of not knowing when to stop.

An unlucky coinciding of the film's release here with a certain tragic recent event in Europe means its opening, pre-credit, section, set on a plane, has uncomfortable resonances and casts a sombre shadow. A pity because otherwise, with its controlled Bunuellian air of the pleasant politeness of strangers and the onset of gradual creepy unease, it is possibly the best of the bunch. Once you've unfrozen your face though, it's easy to start laughing again in RATS as a waitress in a roadside café recognises the customer as a bloke who drove her father to into debt and suicide, and her baleful work colleague enthusiastically and then uncontrollably takes up her cause. The second story, ROAD TO HELL is an everyday tale of road-rage taken to epic proportions as a smooth towny in his smart car meets his match when he insults a passing country bloke in a truck. Here the prolongation of hostilities is delicious as cars and men take more punishment than seems humanly or vehicularly imaginable, with a wicked punchline.

The great film actor Ricardo Darin stars in the fourth story, BOMBISTA as a mild mannered explosives expert who blows up old buildings as a profession. Stopping to pick up a birthday cake for his daughter, he gets clamped, and enters the Catch 22 world of council bureaucracy. As his marriage threatens to crumble around him, his revenge is meticulous and sweet and very satisfying. As you might imagine his professional expertise comes in handy. And the final, longest, story, TIL DEATH DO US PART is a hysterical nightmare vision of the wedding that went very very wrong, when bride (Erica Rivas) realises her groom has been cheating on her. Blood and cake icing meet in an entertaining, physical rampage moving from outrage to devilish glee, which pokes fun at the fairytale patina of posh weddings and what really lies beneath. Its only fault is that it goes on a mite too long - you get the feeling the whole cast are enjoying themselves too much to stop - but that's forgivable.

Only one story seems wrong here - and not because it's lesser in quality, it is very powerful, but because the tone seems different. THE BILL tells of an upperclass family's attempt to cover up their son's dangerous driving by getting the faithful old gardener to take the rap. Reminiscent of the similar and far more foreboding scenario in Nuri Bulge Ceylan's Three Monkeys, here it's sardonically funny watching the hoops being danced through by these pillars of society, but its darkness is on a different level from its playful companion pieces, and without their satisfying resolutions. Riotous colour and thrilling camera-work make Argentina a seductive place, from its burnt-orange out-of-town landscapes to its city centre car parks, and the lush gardens and plush hotels where the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie is totally blown away.


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