Wild Tales

Wild Tales , com­edy-drama-thriller, rated R, in Span­ish with sub­ti­tles, Re­gal DeVar­gas, 3.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Jonathan Richards

Wild Tales, one of the nom­i­nees in this year’s for­eign-lan­guage cat­e­gory at the Os­cars, is an an­thol­ogy movie that packs to­gether six sto­ries con­nected by a com­mon theme: re­venge. Such com­men­ta­tors as Dorothy Parker, Don Cor­leone, and the writer of an old Klin­gon proverb agree that re­venge is a dish best served cold, but Ar­gen­tine writer-direc­tor Damián Sz­ifron la­dles his por­tions out at tem­per­a­tures rang­ing from still frozen to a rag­ing boil.

Sz­ifron’s sto­ries have the quirky, twisted sen­si­bil­ity of some of Roald Dahl’s most mem­o­rable work. You’ll be in the right ball­park if you think of Dahl’s clas­sic short story “Lamb to the Slaugh­ter” (adapted as a fa­mous

Al­fred Hitch­cock Presents episode with Bar­bara Bel Ged­des), about a woman who kills her hus­band with a frozen leg of lamb and then roasts and serves the ev­i­dence to po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors. But Dahl is a model of ci­vil­ity com­pared with Sz­ifron.

Sz­ifron starts out with a wild tale full of co­in­ci­dence (but in an air­plane set­ting over which cur­rent events will cast a more somber shadow than per­haps was in­tended). The sto­ries that fol­low grow in­creas­ingly darker in mood, un­til some­times it’s hard to see the com­edy through the black­ing. Some of this ma­te­rial is not for the faint of heart. From road rage to rat poi­son, from cal­cu­lated sys­temic ju­di­cial cor­rup­tion to a knock-down, drag-out melee at a wed­ding cel­e­bra­tion, Sz­ifron looks at what makes us tick and what makes us ex­plode. Ex­plo­sion is the loom­ing pres­ence be­hind the grow­ing frus­tra­tion of a man do­ing battle with a mind­less bu­reau­cratic sys­tem when his car is towed. The com­pli­cat­ing el­e­ment is that the man is a de­mo­li­tions ex­pert.

Some of the episodes make their point with econ­omy and a glee­ful, al­most sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion. Oth­ers drag on, tum­bling the ma­te­rial like clothes in a dryer set to a time ex­ceed­ing what is re­quired. The same ac­tors turn up in dif­fer­ent episodes, some­times barely rec­og­niz­able in their var­ied char­ac­ters. The pro­duc­tion qual­ity is smooth and stylish, and the per­for­mances are first-rate.

Cin­e­matic re­venge, served cold or hot, is al­ways sat­is­fy­ing, and Sz­ifron takes us through a wild as­sort­ment of fla­vors and sea­son­ings, method and mad­ness, cul­mi­nat­ing in an over-the-top ex­er­cise in the plea­sures of go­ing too far and still com­ing out on the other side.

Bloody whack: Erica Ri­vas and Diego Gen­tile

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