Donnerstag, 4. Dezember 2014

Relatos salvajes (Wild Tales)

Argentinian writer/director Damián Szifrón's "Relatos salvajes (Wild Tales)" is composed of six separate short stories, including one wicked pre-credits intro. Although their limited scope denies them the broader, more lingering impact a continuous, full-fledged narrative probably would have, the individual tales of revenge, greed, irrationality and outbreaks are all entertaining in a delightfully macabre fashion.

At its least effective, the plotting can be a bit too simplistic to stir up true excitement, as in the case of the nice engineer being pushed over the edge by the relentless car-towing of Buenos Aires. But even then, among the cartoonishly reduced twists of events that just keep stacking up against the luckless hero, a very human core can be found which sees the tiny injustices in life that could make anyone tick. This strength in the recognition of weaknesses in all of us is applied brilliantly, say, in the episode involving road rage. Just two characters on a deserted strip of land where a fateful encounter that begins with harmless taunts ends in a deadly embrace. Written with great insight into the often infantile ways of the mind and a sense of humor so sinister it would make Tarantino proud, the escalation of the situation to unstoppably murderous heights is described in one breathtaking swoop that's both intense and tremendously funny. Also perversely comical is the concluding chapter about a wedding reception that goes horribly wrong. Furiously directed and beautifully acted, it depicts with frightening relatability how there's no turning back once something snaps in you and judgment, civility, self-control are just gone like that, The director plays with contradicting tones throughout but here he really pulls off that rare feat where, amid the blood stains, glass splinters, cake remnants, between all the gasps, sobs, stunned silence, a scene so absurd and unpredictable unfolds you see nothing but humanity in it.

Technical aspects are solid. Art direction stands out in the deli section with every surface doused in ghastly, angrily primal colors. Cinematography is likewise impressive, most notably in the last story, where an emotionally complex dance and an intervening rooftop conversation are filmed with eye-catching flourish. Ultimately it's the idea of uncovering our animalistic instincts beneath the wrappings of cultivation that's the most interesting about this movie though. With some theatricality and a lot of perceptiveness, it shows you how, both sadly and amusingly, we're all nothing but mammals.        

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