This week Gabriel Peinado brought us a film that he hadn’t even seen yet – this is often a hit-and-miss strategy…but I’ll say that it worked out pretty spectacularly this time around.
It’s a cute little film about a dog that loves table scraps and the consequences of his master hooking up with a vegetarian. Give it a watch – it won for a reason.
Our feature this week was the 2014 Argentinian film Relatos Salvajes directed by Damián Szifrón. The translation of the title is always given as “Wild Tales” but in English it doesn’t quite capture things. “Salvaje” in Spanish is often used to refer to an untamed animal – the classic “savage beast” – and while “wild” is often used in English for this, the connotations of “wild” usually don’t imply that. If the film were called “Untamed Tales” I think it would give a better snapshot of what the film is all about: people behaving badly. The film itself is made up of six completely unconnected short films all playing with this theme, and if nothing else, that makes for a quick write-up.
The first film, which precedes the opening titles, is the shortest. (In fact the films generally seem to get longer in order, but that may not hold perfectly true.) As two passengers chat, they casually learn that she was the ex of a musician named Pasternak whom he as a music critic had savaged. Another passenger overhears – she was a former teacher of Pasternak’s. Slowly everybody on the plane realizes that they all knew this guy – and had treated him poorly. None of them had bought their tickets but had received them through various unusual circumstances. Oh, and apparently a flight attendant named Pasternak has barricaded himself in the cockpit and is crashing the plane. Right into his parents’ house.
What a lovely way to start a film!
A waitress at a lonely café recognizes her lone customer as a loan shark who had ruined her family – causing her father’s suicide followed by an attempt to seduce her mother…needless to say, she’s pretty shaken up to see him, though he does not recognize her as an adult. She mentions her angst to the cook, who suggests putting rat poison in his order. The waitress balks at this, but you know the cook is going to do it anyway. The waitress brings out the order not really knowing that it was done but has a bit of a moral dilemma once she realizes it. What does she do? Well, it turns out that the loan shark’s son arrives and begins sharing the plate, at which point the waitress doesn’t subscribe to the doctrine of peccata patris and intervenes. The loan shark, already angry with her service and now insulted, attacks her. So the cook comes out of the kitchen with a butcher knife and stabs him to death.
You can see where this movie is going.
“El más fuerte”
Ever want to do this to a driver that cut you off, very clearly on purpose? Well, if you do, don’t do it on a deserted highway if you might end up getting a flat tire later on down the road. Vengeance belongs to the dude who got flipped the bird. He savagely and scatologically attacks the vehicle while the other driver cowers inside begging him to stop. Without going through a long list of how it happens, things escalate to the point that both drivers end up immolated in one of the cars, grappling each other even at the point of death such that the crime scene investigators suggest perhaps it were a double-entendréd crime of “passion”.
If you’ve ever paid attention to movies, you know the rule about the gun – if a gun is introduced into a film, it must be fired at some point. Well, if you start your film establishing that your main character is a large-building demolitions expert, he’d better damn well blow something else up before the end of the movie. In this case our lead character (played by the very recognizable Ricardo Darín) has a series of unfortunate events snowball out of a parking violation that resulted in his car being towed from an unmarked no-parking zone. He misses his daughter’s birthday party, his wife files for divorce, and yet this tiny parking ticket obsesses him so much that he attacks the kiosk where he has to pay it. I have to admit, he’s got a little bit of a “the world is against me” attitude, though he may be right. As a result of attacking the kiosk he gets fired, and applying for a new job he gets his car towed again. That’s the final straw and he breaks into his old workplace and steals some explosives, rigs his car to blow and deliberately leaves it to get towed, where it explodes in the impound lot.
Normally, you’d think that this would not garner him too much sympathy, but given the fact that everybody in the world hates tow companies, the social media backlash makes him (now a prisoner) a cause celébre and if nothing else, he gets his family back. Note: aside from the final film, this is the only segment where nobody actually dies.
Death comes quickly in this one – in fact before the scene even opens. A young and rich brat comes home in the middle of the night having committed a hit-and-run, with the (deceased) victim being a pregnant woman. Since Dad is rich, he wants to make this problem go away and he convinces his gardener to take the fall (and presumably a few years in prison) for his son in return for enough money to set him and his family for life. Unfortunately, the position of the mirrors in the car convince the crime scene investigator that the gardener wasn’t driving and Dad’s lawyer hatches the plan to pay off the crime scene investigator. Oh, and of course the lawyer needs a cut. Things are beginning to get pretty expensive but Dad’s still willing to go through with this until, while cutting the deal, it becomes apparent that the lawyer was trying to scam everybody. Dad calls it off, but with everybody’s cards on the table he eventually agrees to some more favorable terms and the police lead the gardener out of the house through a crowd of protesters. The husband of the victim emerges from the crowd and assassinates the gardener with a hammer. Lovely.
“Hasta que la muerte nos separe”
The final film really does turn out to be my favorite of the six. We open at a lavish and clearly expensive wedding reception in a sumptuous ballroom. Things are going great until the bride sees her new husband – is he flirting with a co-worker at one of the guest tables? She gets an idea that the hang-up call that he received not so long ago might have been a booty call, so she nabs his cell phone and redials the number – the girl’s phone rings! During the first dance she gets her husband to admit his infidelity and in despair she runs out to the roof considering suicide, and in such a nice dress! Fortunately a catering worker on break is smoking on the roof and talks her out of doing herself any harm. And, filled with jealousy, she jumps the catering worker. Of course, the worried groom and some groomsmen finally go up to the roof looking for her and catch her in flagrante delicto. Before he can object, the bride goes into a jealous rage, saying that now that they’re married, if he doesn’t want her to take him for all that he’s worth he’s just going to have to suck it up. They go back downstairs in an attempt to salvage the reception but things stay pretty ugly. For one, she throws the mistress into a mirror and things get a bit bloody but eventually the happy couple, erm, “kisses” and makes up – right on the table by the wedding cake and in front of all of the guests.
This movie is just so much more of a joyride than I can even express. In addition to having fantastic cinematography and acting, the script is wickedly black throughout. I think it’s fair to say that it’s one of those truly great hidden gems that come about every so often at Cinema 1544.