Of the 83 foreign language films I saw, Wild Tales is my favorite. It doesn’t have the gravitas to win an Oscar, but it is greatly entertaining. It consists of six separate stories tied together by a theme: people losing control of their behavior and committing various levels of acts of violence. If this seems grim, there’s a catch: Wild Tales is a comedy. It’s not surprising that it earned audience awards at film festivals as far flung as Oslo, Sarajevo and São Paulo.
The pre-title sequence, Pasternak, begins with a model boarding a flight. She allows the music critic across the aisle to flirt with her and it turns out that they have something in common: they both did emotional harm to a fellow named Gabriel Pasternak. In fact, as they soon discover, so did everyone else on the plane. At the showing I attended, the conclusion of the episode had the audience laughing and applauding, which is pretty impressive for a pre-title sequence.
Next up is The Rats, in which a waitress in a diner recognizes the man who sits down at one of her tables as the sleazy loan shark who drove her father to suicide and ruined her family. He does not recognize her. What to do? While the waitress stresses over this dilemma, the cook, when she hears the story, has her own solution, adding something extra to the man’s food order.
Road to Hell is a road rage conflict between a rich guy and a redneck on a country road that escalates outrageously.
The last three episodes are less murderous. In Bombita, Ricardo Darin plays a demolition engineer who misses his son’s birthday party because his car is towed from a spot that does not display any visible warning that it is a tow-away zone. Plunged into a world of heartless bureaucracy, he becomes increasingly outraged until he feels compelled to use his job expertise to commit a criminal act.
In The Bill, a rich kid under the influence is involved in a hit-and-run accident in which he kills a pregnant woman and her unborn child. His father, Mauricio, calls in the family lawyer. They try to come up with a plan that will save the family from scandal. The police will soon arrive and identify the guilty car, but is it possible to shield the son from being arrested? Then Mauricio looks out the window and sees the family groundskeeper…and makes him an offer he almost can’t refuse.
The final episode, ‘Til Death Do Us Part, takes place at an extravagant Jewish wedding. Shortly after the post-ceremony festivities kick off, the bride, played by Erica Rivas (who won both the best actress and best supporting actress categories at last year’s Argentinian Academy Awards), picks up her groom’s cell phone and discovers that he has been having an affair with a beautiful woman sitting at one of the other tables. To say that the bride reacts strongly to this discovery would be putting it mildly, and the evening descends into increasingly scandalous and chaotic behavior.
According to an early version of the script (thank you Sony hackers), it would appear that the original intention was to end the film with Bombita, which would have been a wiser decision. No matter. The film’s a winner in any order.