Saturday, 4 April 2015

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)

From the mind of Damian Szifron comes an anthology of 6 short films with no overlapping characters or plot lines, only a consistent theme of violence and revenge. "Pasternak", "Las Ratas (The Rats)", "El Mas Fuerte (The Strongest)", "Bombita (Little Bomb)", "La Propuesta (The Proposal), and "Haste Que La Muerte Nos Separe (Until Death Do Us Part)" each offer a different exploration of the film's overarching themes, each with different outcomes. For such a unique film, a unique review is deserved. Let's do this segment by segment...

Part 1: "Pasternak"

This is how to begin a film. Two strangers meet on a plane, and begin to realise they know the same man: Pasternak. However, they're not the only people who know Pasternak... This is the shortest tale of the 6, and by far the funniest. It doesn't exactly set the tone for the rest of the film, as you'll find out, but it certainly piques an interest immediately. The premise is simple and the humour is based on the ludicrous nature of the premise. The nature of the segment means that with almost every line of dialogue, there is yet another plot reveal, but it's never overpowering and adds to the insanity. I cannot think of anything to compare this opening segment too; it's in a league of its own.

Segment Rating: 5/5

Part 2: Las Ratas (The Rats)

Our second short is certainly short; what you'll notice is the segments grow in length as the film continues, something which adds a disconcerting aspect to the viewing as you're never sure when the film will reach its climax. Two women work at a quiet diner, simple passing time, until a customer comes in who the waitress recognises immediately. The customer is a loan shark. A loan shark who destroyed her family. The waitress doesn't know how to deal with it, but the chef does: Kill him. The second tale carries on the black humour of the first (the subject matter is pitch black, but dealt with extremely humorously) but adds an element of character development we're unable to get in the first, short segment. This segment is a strange hybrid of humour, discomfort, and shock. For the most part it works until the end, which unfortunately leaves the viewer empty and dissatisfied.

Segment Rating: 3.5/5

Part 3: El Mas Fuerte (The Strongest)

A businessman drives down a country road alone until he meets a hill billy unwilling to let him pass. Finally, the businessman passes and offers an insult or two as he does so. Further down the road, our cocky businessman gets a puncture, and is forced to pull over in the middle of nowhere. He does his best to fix it himself, but the longer he's off the road, the more inevitable it becomes that someone will catch him up... This segment is probably the lightest of the 6, the humour isn't black but rather laugh out loud. There's an element of discomfort which is borne of the confrontation between the two drivers, but any and all tension is resolved through comedy, making this one of the most entertaining segments of the 6. The resolution seems a little forced though.

Segment Rating: 4.5/5

Part 4: Bombita (Little Bomb)

This is where things take a turn for the blacker. A simple story of a man becoming frustrated with the world because his car was towed ends up with him becoming a celebrated terrorist. It's pitch black, there are little to no laughs in this one, perhaps this segment runs a little too close to the edge? It would balance out if there were enough tension to carry the plot through but there's little to none of that either. This one is really character driven, focusing on Simon played by Ricardo Darin, "coincidentally" the biggest star in the film who's given more screen time than any other character in the film. The ending fits the segment's plot for once, but the theme of revenge is really played out here and is stretched to its limits.

Segment Rating: 2/5

Part 5: La Propuesta (The Proposal)

The Proposal moves us into an altogether different beast of a segment. There are no laughs derived of humour in this one, only of sheer bewilderment as to the extremes the characters are willing to go to. A young man runs down and kills a pregnant woman whilst drunk, and his parents attempt to bribe their gardener to take the fall via their lawyer. Hilarious premise, no? It becomes clear in this one another theme Szifron is exploring in these segments is the extreme lengths humans will take to self-protect and self-serve. This segment is the living embodiment of this principal... In Szifron's eyes. It goes to great lengths to depict the most deplorable of human natures, but weirdly this is the only segment which finishes with any kind of justice being done. It's engaging, and provides a sharp contrast to the overall tone of the film.

Segment Rating: 3/5

Part 6: Haste Que La Muerte Nos Separe (Until Death Do Us Part)

Then we come to the sixth and final segment. After 4 and 5, you'd be allowed to think things are beginning to drag. 4 and 5 are long, dark segments, so when we're presented with a wedding, things are looking up. Except it's the wedding from hell. After the darkness of the previous hour, segment  is joyous, uplifting, endlessly entertaining, and a fantastic way both to end the film, as well as bookend it as it accompanies the first segment wonderfully. The direction and camera work are exceptional in this; possibly because the action stays mainly in one setting and the limits of the room are fully explored. The acting of the two leads is fantastic, and the writing is so ludicrous it just about works. The ending works too, because the alternative is seemingly unthinkable and most definitely would have provided a jarring finale.

Segment Rating:4.5/5

Overall... The film, like any film, has its weak points. It also has its strong points. The only difference between this film and any other is that the segmented nature of this film highlights where its high and low points are. The writing is generally sharp, though it seems at certain points it struggles in achieving its aims and the segments lose their way, meandering to their drawn-out conclusions. It's hugely entertaining though. I haven't seen a film like this since Four Rooms, and perhaps I should. Perhaps more people should take the lead of this film. Inevitably someone will with the inevitable American remake of this film.

Overall Rating: 4/5