There is unlikely to be a funnier film in Cannes this year than the brilliantly bonkers and hysterically over the top anthology of short episodes that comprise director Damián Szifrón’s Wild Tales. Never has watching a collection of diverse characters being pushed to their limits and spectacularly losing control been as much fun as it is in this violent but hilarious film from Argentina.
Choosing not to simply tell one story, writer/director Szifrón instead forces together disparate stories all linked by characters that are pushed to their limits and end up exploding, most often in magnificently brutal ways. First up in the pre-credits sequence, a model catches a flight only to realise that many of the passengers have something in common and they may not want to be on this plane after all. Then after the credits (which offer stills of a collection of wild animals, most often predators) comes the tale of a waitress who is faced with a moral dilemma when a gangster who she has a score to settle with comes into her restaurant. The best of the short stories is next with the wonderfully violent encounter between a wealthy driver who overtakes and abuses a ‘redneck’ only to find himself stuck with a flat tyre further along the deserted road. Next up, a building demolition expert has a run in with the authorities over a parking ticket, a rich kid commits a hit and run to the horror of his family and finally a bride on her wedding day finds out that her new husband has been hiding a very big secret from her.
Though the stories are completely unrelated in that they share no characters or locations with no intertwining cleverness, Wild Tales still offers a surprisingly cohesive experience thanks to its central theme of people being pushed to the edge and deciding to react in wonderfully vengeful ways. The writing is superb with Szifrón adding endless wit to even the most seemingly grim of situations and there are countless laugh out loud lines even before the hysterical violence takes over. Some of the stories have slightly less going for them than others. The waitress episode has some good lines especially from a hardened old lady cook in the restaurant kitchen but its ending lacks a decent punchline and brings down the overall average. However, all the other episodes more than make up for it. The fight between the two men in cars on the deserted road is one of the funniest scenes of the year so far; brutal, continuously inventive and constantly riotous. Similarly Wild Tales goes out with a hell of a bang after the relatively calm hit and run story with one of the best wedding scenes ever filmed.
Szifrón has made an absolutely wild film from start to finish. There are undertones of class conflict and obvious themes of revenge, jealousy and the very thin line between civilisation and absolute barbarity. The characters can only take so much and Szifrón seems to show healthy disdain for humans and they way we act in anger. On the other hand, there are heroes that emerge; the bride on her wedding night, the demolitions expert and even both men who fight it out on an empty road even while their lives are in increasing danger. The performances, the wildly varying music and score and the cinematography are all perfect and even the couple of stories that work less well, still have moments of genius.
In competition for the Palme D’Or at Cannes 2014, Wild Tales may not be the kind of film that will win too many awards but it certainly deserves to pick up a wide audience. If there were awards for Best Fight or for Best Wedding, then this film would cream the competition. Szifrón has made the most surprising film of the festival so far, dazzling with his direction and audacious storytelling.
Don’t be put off by the threat of subtitles or some of the overly dry and complicated synopses that are floating around; Wild Tales is one hell of a ride and a hilarious must-see.
About the Author
Pete Turner is a Senior Reporter