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Wild Tales

(2015) *** 1/2 R
122 min. Sony Pictures Classics. Directors: Damián Szifrón, Damián Szifrón. Cast: Mónica Villa, Darío Grandinetti, María Marull, Ricardo Darin, Leonardo Sbaraglia.

/content/films/4779/1.jpgQuentin Tarantino, move over. Argentinian writer-director Damián Szifron has his own Wild Tales to tell—six of them, in fact—in the take-no-prisoners black-comedic anthology film that rocked last year's Cannes Film Festival, became Argentina's most-watched film of 2014, and scored an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

Like Tarantino, Szifron takes an obvious relish in man's inhumanity to man, man's inhumanity to women, and woman's inhumanity to man, all of which are merely preludes to nasty, and at times wickedly over-the-top, violence. Vengeance, then, is a primary motif, in Szifron's chaotic universe, a funhouse-mirror image that, despite its hyperbole, remains a recognizable reflection of our own.

After a Wildly creative opening segment ("Pasternak") and a post-credits chaser ("The Rats") that are nasty, brutish, and short, Szifron establishes a more leisurely pace with the remaining four short stories clocking in at roughly twenty-minutes each. "Pasternak" and "The Rats" both feature revenge fantasies, one that we're traumatically rooting against (even as we admire its ingenuity) and another we may find ourselves rooting for, though less so the more distressingly messy it gets. Szifron's skills at playing with the audience's own desire for bloodlust—only from the safety of theater seats, but of course—and plying his cinematic trade with stylish precision put him in good company with "Master of Suspense" Alfred Hitchcock. Tools of the trade? A jumbo jet, rat poison, a sizable kitchen knife.

And cars, as per the segments "The Strongest" and "The Proposal," in which chance vehicular encounters turn deadly. The wan "The Proposal" proves to be Wild Tales' weakest (though hardly worthless) effort, spinning the domestic horror of dealing with a hit-and-run into a hit-and-miss satire on people's shameless capacities for greed (lazily punctuated with an obvious "twist"). Szifron's specialty is stoking a laugh that, interrupted by a gasp, catches in the throat. "The Strongest" gets there with a disproportionate bout of road rage of the "that escalated quickly" variety, while the "Little Bomb" segment (with Argentinian star player Ricardo Darín of The Secret in Their Eyes as an Everyman-pushed-too-far) employs a ballooning pressure that you know just has to pop.

"Little Bomb" and the film's closing chapter, "Until Death Do Us Part," have the deepest impacts by being the most relatable and credible of the wild tales. The former makes hay of everyday institutional injustices (like maddening parking tickets and governmental bureaucracies) while the latter gets more personal: a groom's philandering irradiates his new bride (Érica Rivas) into a Bridezilla. Darín's controlled slow burn and Rivas' understandably crazed, avenging-angelic hurt are sure to get audiences where they live. Like Tarantino's films, Wild Tales will rub some the wrong way by taking glee in the violence that comes from our worst selves, but the catharses have a positive social function: in the end (in all six ends, that is), there's no doubt Szifron intends cautionary Tales.

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Aspect ratios: 2.39:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 6/16/2015

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Sony delivers another outstanding hi-def special edition with its Blu-ray release of Wild Tales. Picture quality is expectedly stellar: the digital-to-digital transfer (from a spotless source shot on the Alexa camera) retains accurate, rich color, with unimpeachable detail and texture and perfectly rendered contrast, for an overall crisp and inviting look. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix lays down an aggressive, full-bodied soundscape that impresses with immersion employing careful placement and movement of effects ranging from the palpable LFE of low-rumbling thunder to the punchy impact of multiple explosions, and the music—whether it be Gustavo Santaolalla's score or the wryly chosen source music—invariably pleases in its fidelity and warmth.

"Wild Shooting: Creating the Film" (24:58, HD) constitutes a fine American-style making-of featurette: not just B-roll, but also exhaustive interviews, as well as special effects breakdowns, storyboards, footage from the scoring sessions and other visual goodies. Interview subjects include director Damián Szifrón, producer Hugo Sigman, producer Agustin Almodovar, producer Pedro Almodovar, producer Esther Garcia, director of photography Javier Juliá, art director Clara Notari, composer Gustavo Santaolalla, costumer Ruth Fischerman, sound director José Luis Díaz, and actors Oscar Martinez, Ricardo Darin, Dario Grandinelli, Rita Cortese, Erica Rivas, Julieta Zylberberg, and Leonardo Sbaraglia.

The disc also includes a nice bit of archival video: "An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Damián Szifrón" (6:46, HD) in which the director introduces the film to an audience and participates in a brief post-screening Q&A.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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