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Wild Tales is a profane comedy about nasty accidents on life’s superhighway. It’s a stylish, spiky, malign sextet of stories from Latin America. It’s almost Dante-esque. The Florentine poet didn’t quite begin his own comedy with: “Midway on the road of life I had an episode of road rage.” But if he had lived in 21st-century Argentina — embattled, identity-troubled, marooned at the end of a landmass shaped like a deranged spermatozoon — he surely might have.
These portmanteau movies seldom work. An audience growing an embryo of interest in one set of characters is told to abort and germinate interest in another; then another. But the characters in Wild Tales are really — this is the film’s ace — all the same. Life bashes them: they want to bash back or bash first. In story one, a planeload of apparently unconnected passengers falls victim to a communal “payback”. After that: rat poison is served in a wayside diner; a literal road-rage incident turns rabid; red tape becomes a red rag to a bureaucracy victim; a hit-and-run crime fractures a family; a wedding-party bride discovers that passion can be a lethal weapon . . .
Filmmaker Damián Szifrón must have had a difficult childhood. Or else he just loves — don’t we all? — dark stories in which logic is an extension ladder from Earth to Hell. Not every tale quite reaches the infernal G-spot. The dullest is the hit-and-run cover-up. But Szifrón picks up the pace for the last and longest. What is the nature of love and passion? If they are strong enough to get people to a marriage altar, they might be strong enough to do untold mischief on the way. Or even immediately after, at the party. A revenge, adulterous knee-trembler on a roof; a groom’s suspected mistress smashed into a mirror; make-up marital rumpy-pumpy atop the wedding cake table . . . All to show: marriage isn’t just for Christmas. And this connoisseur black comedy isn’t just for Easter.