Relatos salvajes [Wild Tales] (2014)

(On Cable TV, February 2016) I thought I would like this dark comedy anthology film a bit more than I did, but it turns out that even my considerable misanthropy has its limits these days. A collection of six short movies about revenge, Relatos salvajes is deeply cynical even at the best of times. The first story (“Pasternak”) features an intentional passenger jet crash, setting up a high bar for how dark the film will be so that we’re not exactly surprised by the time more deaths violently pile up during the second instalment. (“The Rats”) By the end of the third story (“The Strongest”), a progressively dismaying story of road rage escalating, I felt my interest in the film slipping: If it was going to keep being as dark as it was, I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow. Fortunately, the fourth story (“Little Bomb”) picked up, largely because it stepped back from death and suggested how much life is to be found in well-executed revenge. The fifth story (“The Proposal”), in which rich people conspire to get a poor worker to take the blame for a fatal car crash, may be the most forgettable story of the bunch. But that’s fine, because the sixth story (“Until Death Do Us Part”) is a spectacular big finish set at a lavish wedding: It soon takes a turn for the worse, but by the time it concludes, we’re left to appreciate the romance of two badly screwed-up people truly finding their true nature. Writer/director Damián Szifron’s Relatos salvajes is not necessarily for everyone due to its wearying cynicism, but it’s curiously universal despite coming in a different language from another hemisphere. And if a story doesn’t do it for you … there’s always the next one.

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