A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wild Tales (Damián Szifrón, 2014)

We don't see the "anthology film" of the type represented by Wild Tales much any more, except in movies like Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994) that take a group of somewhat interrelated stories and intercut them with one another. Damián Szifrón's movie is unabashedly a group of six short films that bear no essential relation to one another, except that they all deal with people at the breaking point and they all produce a macabre laughter. The movie was Argentina's entry in the best foreign language film category for the 2014 Oscars. (It lost to Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida.) Wild Tales takes off even before the credits with the mood-setting "Pasternak," in which a group of passengers on a plane all discover that, though they are strangers to one another, they are all in some unfortunate way acquainted with the plane's pilot who has ingeniously managed to get them on board together. (The pilot's murderous and suicidal intent is such an eerie foreshadowing of the May 2015 crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 that some theaters showing the film posted a warning.) My favorite  of the episodes is "El más fuerte" ("The Strongest"), in which a road-rage incident snowballs to a deadly and hilarious conclusion reminiscent of a Warner Bros. cartoon in which Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck try to annihilate each other. My least favorite is probably the concluding one, "Hasta que la muerte nos separe" ("Until Death Us Do Part"), which depicts a wedding reception gone splendidly awry. It goes on too long, I think, but like all of the episodes it scores some satiric hits on its target, the wedding business. Other targets include the urban bureaucracy (everyone who has ever grumbled at the DMV will appreciate this one), the legal establishment, and the media's headlong rush to judgment.  

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