We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Multi-story feature films are not the happiest of genres, for reasons that are usually very apparent. For one, having to conclude one story and start another, over and over, interrupts the dream-like flow that most moviegoers expect of features. For another, unevenness is almost built into the form: some stories will be better than others, perhaps especially when several filmmakers are involved.
All of these inherent drawbacks help explain why Argentina’s “Wild Tales” comes as such an extraordinary surprise. Perhaps the best multi-story feature this reviewer has ever seen, the Sony Classics release, a nominee for this year’s Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar, deserves to become a serious art-house hit in the U.S. thanks to its skill in deftly overcoming the form’s usual deficits, for a result that feels as amazingly cohesive as it is relentlessly clever and entertaining.
No doubt the film has something of an advantage in that it comes from one filmmaker, Damián Szifron (“The Bottom of the Sea”), and thus reflects a singular vision and sensibility. Beyond that, it must be said that Szifron has remarkable skills as both a director and a storyteller. Each of the six stories here, which average about 20 minutes, is thoroughly enthralling, and all are united by a mordant black humor. Connected thematically in dealing with revenge and retribution, each segment sets up expectations that its successor ingeniously fulfills or surpasses.
The first, pre-credits story, “Pasternak,” gets things off to a high-flying start. An attractive young woman–a model, we soon learn–checks in for a flight and hears she won’t get frequent flier miles because someone else has paid her ticket. On board the plane, she begins chatting with another passenger and learns they both knew a guy named Pasternak, a boyfriend she dumped years ago. Then another passenger says he was the professor who failed the same guy. Could it be--? Sure enough, the plane is full of people who’ve shafted Mr. P. And who’s that locked in the cockpit?