Wild Tales (2014)

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“I can’t believe this.”

A product of both Argentina and Spain, Wild Tales is an unsettling reverie and one of the most evocative films I have seen in some time. This is a mesmerizing, long-winded collection of campfire parables projected onto the big screen, an expertly directed anthology pieced together with an almost insufferable and inescapable feeling of intentionally besought grief. What’s most commendable, and ambitious of the film, is that each chapter speaks to a grander theme on its own microscopic level. Wild Tales is a functioning schizophrenic, mashing together deranged personalities and batty storylines in such a way that they’re never obvious, yet also don’t fail to stand out. It’s a crazy film with short, powerful motifs planned to serve its overall higher purpose and calling.

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More than any other film I have reviewed thus far, I have to refrain from revealing Wild Tales’ plot and central characters. That’s because this is a compilation of six stories and multiple, integral individuals in each segment. It’s simply too dense to attempt to begin writing an abridged version. That’s better though, because this is a movie which is best to go into blind. I knew it was up for Best Foreign Language Film at the past Academy Awards, but besides that I knew nothing. I didn’t read a synopsis, refused to watch a trailer. And from perplexing start to its unruly finish, each chapter of Wild Tales puts a vice grip on your nervous system, making you squeam with overwhelming anxiety.

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In my mind Ida is still the best foreign film I saw in 2014, but Wild Tales is undeniably more entertaining. Writer/Director Damián Szifrón delivers the dark comedy of the year. This is expertly made beyond his years, and as an audience you can tell because the experience is so natural, so smooth. Creative genius Pedro Almodóvar as a producer certainly influenced the end product as well. Not until it’s over, at least for me, do you begin to appreciate the artistic vision behind the camera. My lone critique is a selfish one. I wanted more of each story. The mystery behind their pasts, presents and futures had me salivating for another bite. The problem with that request is that the film would have suffered from further detail or development. Each story is self-contained and perfectly paced, having its own three act structure and better story beats than most standard length features. The setup of its unique composition improves and diminishes the effect of the collective viewing. It’s strange, to have to critique an element that also makes the movie wholly original.

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Wild Tales is a half boquet of roses, a beautifully and fully bloomed hexagonal story with thorny personalities. Each segment is brilliantly acted, presenting us with characters stuck in mundane lives instantly elevated to the most extreme. Their angles all vary, yet only slightly. Coincidence, revenge, patience, stubbornness, bribery, disgust. There is a beauty to the breakdown in every storyline. Each one builds to a flawed human quality seeking vengeance against those who wrong you. Szifrón directs the story with a wrecking ball, happily throwing us around a cast of easily agitated people, making sure to pause long enough for us to admire the engineering and coordination of every single implosive decision. In The Dark Knight Alfred says of The Joker, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Wild Tales justifies that statement with unhinged, diabolically average characters who take delight in demolition, who become self-satisfactory vehicles of an unquenchable thirst for disintegration. Wild Tales, a seductively destructive film, never shies away from embodying the title’s distinctly upfront perversity.

“There’s a cosmic connection here.” 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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