Anthology films are so rare these days, which is a shame because they are such an interesting concept – short films with a loosely common theme, telling different stories in a confined space. It is a refreshing way to tell a story, because no longer does a writer and director have ninety minutes to tell their story, they only have about ten minutes, so only the bare essentials of the story can be kept in, much like the appeal of short stories – entertaining, fast and often long enough to give us a great story, but short enough not to lose our attention. Wild Tales is one of the best anthology films I’ve seen in a long time, and there is just so much to this little hidden gem.
Wild Tales consists of six short stories, each about twenty minutes in length. All six are different and none of them are interconnected, and the only common theme is that the subjects of the segments are either the victims of crazy people, or absolutely insane themselves. Damian Szifron tells the stories of six people who are just having a very bad day, but unlike us, most of these people can’t get through their bad day without doing some terrible things to others as well.
The film gets off to a rollickingly hilarious start with a segment involving a supermodel on an airplane, as she strikes up conversation with a man next to here, realizing that they have a common acquaintance – Gabriel Pasternak, her ex-boyfriend, and his former student. Also on the plane are a dozen other people who also know Gabriel Pasternak. Of course, this isn’t merely coincidence, and the big reveal is one that will make everyone laugh as well as cringe with horror. The film gets off to a great start with this segment, and all the others that follow keep the brilliance of the first, and sometimes even improve on it.
All the segments are wonderfully memorable, and the characters are amazingly diverse and all fascinating – take for example the young waitress who is forced to confront the man who ruined her family while unbeknownst to her, the elderly kitchen lady has put rat poison into his food. Or the humble father who blows up a traffic office because he is tired of his car being towed, or the two men who get into a fight to the death over some trivial road rage, or the rich family whose son kills a pregnant woman with his car, and who persuade their housekeeper to take the fall for it. These films tackle some very strange and taboo topics with such bitter humor, and although these characters are absolutely terrible and bad people to the bone, we can’t help feel for them and we secretly want them to succeed.
The best segment in the film is of course the final one, which takes place at a wedding, where a bride discovers her husband has invited his mistress to the wedding, and he flirts with her throughout. The bride launches into a rage of insanity the likes of which the earth has never seen before. This is a star-making turn for Erica Rivas, who is just completely insane, but still so likable as the bride. The segment itself is absolutely worth it just for the glorious satire of the wedding clichés we have grown to know and hate.
Wild Tales is a very odd, but beautifully sardonic and brilliant dark comedy that is not grand opera, but absolutely feels like something special. It never feels overlong, it is thoroughly entertaining, and wonderfully acted and directed. It is one of the funniest films you’ll see, but it does have a very dark sense of humor, so beware. I absolutely loved Wild Tales, and of course it is always wonderful to see South American cinema flourish. A wonderfully memorable little film.