Wild Tales

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Movie a Day Blog has been hearing that if there is one film that can upset the overloaded Best Foreign Film applecart, it’s WILD TALES (2014, Theatrical), the Argentinian entry that is by far the most fun nominee to watch.

That doesn’t make it the best film, however. WILD TALES is really six wild tales, not connected except generically by theme, which in this case seems mostly to be anger leading to revenge.

It’s an odd sort of omnibus film, because all of the segments are written and directed by Damian Szifron, a successful film and TV director in Argentina; this is his third feature. In the old fashioned omnibus movie, different directors would contribute chapters linked to a common setting or theme.

WILD TALES is an impressive accomplishment, because all of the stories carry an emotional payoff or punch, sometimes both. It’s a difficult film to discuss because spoilers abound; there’s another one every 20 minutes, although theĀ  film never feels overlong, even at its 122-minute running time.

Szifron has style and wit to spare, but the problem with a film such as WILD TALES is that it’s really a grouping of six shorts, only very loosely linked by, as the film’s publicity blurb states, “the undeniable pleasure of losing control.”

Each episode is well-cast, and while some are short and sweet, some feel a bit overlong. The opener is literally a smash, and is a great indicator of what’s to come, although none of the other segments feels quite as sharp in impact. Revenge seems to be the most common motivation, whether in a restaurant kitchen or an escalating road-rage incident.

Vehicles and their malevolent power are featured, but so is a misbegotten wedding where the bride gives a performance worthy of the Oscar WILD TALES probably won’t receive. It’s still a terrific sequence.

Still, this is the kind of nomination that can change a career (Szifron is 40), and in a year dominated by serious, brooding films such as LEVIATHAN (2014, Movie a Day 2/18/15) and TIMBUKTU (2/11/15), WILD TALES may well curry favor with Academy voters who like dark satire and don’t want to reminded of contemporary miseries. But the latter two, in particular, are stronger movies.

Given the sorry state of Hollywood, the most innovative filmmaking is coming from abroad these days. While WILD TALES is brash and brutish, its artistic credentials can’t stand up to its competitors. This was an entertaining watch, but it’s not really Oscar material.

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