Spanish Film Festival 2015 capsule review: Wild Tales (2014)

Wild Tales is playing as part of the 2015 Spanish Film Festival, which is in various cities around Australia in April and May 2015. Check out the full program here.

Anthology films are strange beasts. Their sometimes disparate, barely connected fragments can either be a drag, or find an interesting enough thread that runs through the whole film.

Argentinean Best Foreign Language Film nominee Wild Tales, closing night film at the 2015 Spanish Film Festival around Australia in April and May, is produced by Pedro Almodovar and easily one that fits within the Spanish auteur’s sensibilities. The six shorts in the film are centered around the concept of revenge, when humanity is at its most ugly, spiteful and vindictive, with exuberant, brash characters. Some interpretations are more literal than others. The opener is a textbook payback that starts off very funny, setting the scene for the film well, before it gets horrifyingly topical. The third is fits of spontaneous rage sparking off one another, until it pushes the two characters over the edge. The fourth is dissatisfaction with bureaucracy gone mad. However, it’s the less literal (or in the case of one, just downright excellently executed) readings of revenge that prove to be the most effective. The second plays like a character’s back story from Orange is the New Black, achieving a level of dark comedy not reached again until the last chapter, perfectly scripted and paced. The fifth is a gradually revealing game of deception, extortion and revenge that feels so deserved that you can’t help but watch in awe. The sixth, easily the best chapter of the lot, is like an extension of Gone Girl that builds to a hilarious and jaw-droppingly unexpected conclusion.

Writer/director Damian Szifron does not construct his characters with love. Rather, the film is wildly satirical – revenge here is laughed at, the film intended as a take down of upper class sensibilities, upper class people viewed as shattered mirror demons. Attempts to hide bad will with money are laughed at, met with bloody fates or, in the case of the sixth chapter, situations are viewed as they would be through a glass wall at a zoo, attacking each other in the name of entertainment at an escalating intensity. Some segments drag more than necessary, with the end product not being as hilarious or subversive as suggested, but the political undertone and style is superbly used in three of the segments that makes Wild Tales an, albeit somewhat frustrating, but worthwhile watch.

Rating: 3/5

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