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Wild Tales: Comedy Over The Edge

nullWhat do you do
when you’re faced with a crowd-pleasing movie—and you don’t agree with the
crowd? That’s the situation I find myself in regarding Damián Szifrón’s Wild Tales, the Argentinian import that
is nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film. The fact that it is
“presented” by Pedro Almodóvar, and promoted as such, provides an idea of what
lies in store. This is a deliberately outrageous social comedy, an episodic
film in which a handful of relatable individuals find themselves in awkward or
untenable situations and respond in extreme ways.

Revenge is a
juicy subject, of course, and it’s hard not to root for a civil engineer who is
pushed over the edge by a series of indifferent bureaucrats over something as
simple as an unfair parking violation. I enjoyed this opening sequence, but
with each successive vignette the stakes are raised as the tone gets darker. At
some point I stopped laughing and felt a mounting sense of unease instead. That’s
deliberate on the part of writer-director Szifrón, and audiences have responded
with loud approval. (I watched this at the Telluride Film Festival last fall,
and have heard of similar reactions ever since.)

I can’t
predict how someone else will respond to the situations Szifrón portrays, from
a mano a mano battle on a deserted
road to a wedding-turned-horror show in which a wronged bride wields a gigantic
knife. Along the way Szifrón manages to skewer a number of social ills and the
hypocrisy that seems to permeate Western civilization. He is a keen-eyed
satirist, to be sure, but I was put off by his characters’ outrageous behavior—which
other people seem to find hilarious.

If anything
lies in the eye of the beholder, it’s comedy. If Wild Tales intrigues you, you should see it and judge for yourself. 

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