New To Blu: Wild Tales

Wild Tales hit blu-ray this week. Check out our review.

"Damn. You look yummy. I am SO
going to eat you."
From producer Pedro Almodóvar, Argentina's Wild Tales certainly lives up to its name. A clever, unpredictable, very dark comedy/drama of sometimes absurd proportions, it was deservedly one of 2014's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominees – and this week it debuts on American blu-ray. After a far too limited theatrical run, hopefully this great, wickedly funny film will find its following in North America on disc and streaming.

An anthology film comprised of six short stories, Wild Tales gives us a deliciously cynical portrait of humanity's struggle against the misery that we bring upon ourselves and each other, all the while testing the limits of just how funny such dark subject matter can be (or just how dark a movie can get and still be funny). It's a film about emotions, and usually the darker ones: anger, disillusionment, jealousy, guilt, and revenge. Especially revenge: it's the common theme that links all six stories in one abstract way or another. And not necessarily the violent Death Wish kind of revenge; sometimes it's just revenge against the mundane and petty things that suck about life, like long lines at the DMV or that jerk who just cut you off on the road. It could be best summed up as a film about the unexpected moments when people reach their breaking points.

The tales are quite eclectic in tone, going from the absolutely hilarious opening story to a second one that pretty much drops the comedy altogether and offers a grim drama about a philosophical dilemma suddenly made very real. The stories that follow likewise vary in tone along the comedy-drama continuum, but the tonal shifts work very well without ever being distracting thanks to writer/director Damián Szifron's sharp handling of the material. Szifron gives the film its own sense of mad unreality as only an Almodóvar protege could: there is a strong feeling that literally anything could happen at any time.

"We have to go back
to the island."
The film's funniest story is a bit like what might have happened had Duel been directed by John Waters instead of Steven Spielberg. Another, about a man's frustration with the awfulness of bureaucracy, is reminiscent of the bitter humor of Alexander Payne's superb Election. But then things once again have a way of getting very serious, and even quite existential. This tonal and narrative unpredictability keeps us on the edges of our seats in a pretty unique way, as we honestly have no idea where – or how far – the stories will go or what sorts of emotions the film will try to provoke next.

Wild Tales is a film that Hollywood could not have made; large American studios just would not have been comfortable with the emotional complexity and unpredictability of the script, and likely a large chunk of mainstream American viewers wouldn't have been comfortable with it either. A film like this needed to come from the indie world, or from another country that has more of an appetite for challenging and unconventional cinema on a larger scale. And who better to bring us such a movie than producer Almodóvar, and a writer/director like Szifron who shares his crazy, unique vision? For those who likewise prefer their cinema eclectic and unusual, Wild Tales is definitely one to see.

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-Christopher S. Jordan