Sunday, 19 April 2015

Wild Tales

The Icarus of new cinema has finally begun to feel the trickling of hot wax along his spine. Damian Szifron’s latest film is too perceptive, too real, to escape the grim turn of current events. 

The opening scene of this macabre series, told with honest comedic intentions, strikes a raw nerve by its eerie similarity to the recent Germanwings tragedy in the Alps. While the rest of Hollywood seemingly suffers a dearth of originality, this piece of celluloid prophesy holds a dangerous excess of it. The imagination of this script - written long before the airline disaster - bites uncomfortably close to the last tethers of our social fabric. Surely it would have been better, for filmmaker and public alike, to delay the release for longer? Instead, burying it in the post-Oscars lull has not benefited anyone.

For all that doom and sorrow, Wild Tales is actually a fairly pleasurable film. Even so, it remains totally unmarketable outside of its native Spain.  To state the obvious, Blighty’s box office does not traditionally favour subtitles. Its scattered vignette structure, moreover, proves a turn-off for the casual viewer. And so it seems that even if the dialogue were in our primitive mongrel parlance, the investors would suffer financial embarrassment anyway. Amongst their names with a producer credit is that irrepressible stalwart of liberal Latin cinema: who else but Pedro Almodovar?

Artistically speaking, no matter how sweetly these narrative hors d’oeuvres can be consumed, they lack the emotional significance and narrative panache of an arcing tale. Szifron is an accomplished storyteller but this is no All About My Mother. There are six pieces in all, each of which varies in quality to a slight degree.

Like the old critics’ line about sketch shows, this is a hit and miss affair. The wedding reception of a psychotic couple (including Iberia’s answer to Bradley Cooper as the groom) is a baffling triumph. In contrast, a crossover between Goodfellas and Diner seems prematurely rushed towards its hollow conclusion. A case of road rage, on the other hand, is middling fare.

On the whole, it’s an impressive assortment that benefits from slick performances and directing. And when, as in the sequence featuring a man frustrated by oppressive bureaucracy, the script scours the scab of common cultural anger it carries a definite appeal. Szifron’s best is his penultimate tale, for once told without the desire for laughter. Alas, if only the foresight had been available to treat the opening setting with the same sensibilities. To do so, nevertheless, is asking the impossible. But the cold talk of money, to which all films (even these arty ones) aim for, pays no heed to such sentiments. 


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