Madly entertaining and just plain mad, Damián Szifrón's Wild Tales collects six short films that show humankind in its best light: marital infidelity, exacting revenge; sloppy restaurant service, exacting revenge; driving recklessly, exacting revenge; zealous parking authority officials, exacting revenge; panic on an airplane, exacting revenge; bribery, extortion, and obstruction of justice, exacting revenge.
Detect a theme?
It would be a disservice to delve into the specifics of these forceful, funny, frightening vignettes populated by raging men and women who, for good or ill (usually ill), take matters into their own hands. The best way to see Wild Tales, one of this year's foreign-language Academy Award nominees, is to just see it, without advance warning of plot points and their myriad twists. Wild Tales - Relatos salvajes in its original Spanish - is, indeed, savage. And surprising. Your jaw will drop, your head will shake, more than a few times.
Beautifully shot in swank and not-so-swank precincts of Buenos Aires, and on swaths of the Argentine outback, Wild Tales assembles a talented band of actors (the best-known is Ricardo Darin, from The Secret in Their Eyes, who stars in the "Bombita" episode) and places them in situations - frustrating, unfair - that most of us will find familiar.
But then . . . self-control and common sense fly out the window. My favorite segments: "Pasternak," which opens Wild Tales with a vengeance, and "Til Death Do Us Part," a wedding reception story that ends the film.
And in between? Human savagery - sublime!
Wild Tales ***1/2 (Out of four stars)
Directed by Damián Szifrón.
With María Marull, Rita Cortese, Ricardo Darin, Érica Rivas. In Spanish with subtitles. Distributed by
Sony Pictures Classics.
Running time: 2 hours, 2 mins.
Parent's guide: R (sex, violence, profanity, adult themes).
Playing at: Ritz Five.