Argentine Oscar Nominee 'Wild Tales' Lives Up To Its Title NPR movie critic Bob Mondello says the Argentine nominee for best foreign language film, Wild Tales, is an anthology of darkly comic stories that definitely lives up to its title.
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Argentine Oscar Nominee 'Wild Tales' Lives Up To Its Title

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Argentine Oscar Nominee 'Wild Tales' Lives Up To Its Title

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Movie Reviews

Argentine Oscar Nominee 'Wild Tales' Lives Up To Its Title

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Every time our film critic, Bob Mondello, walks by in the office, somebody asks him about his Oscar picks. One of his favorites is a nominee for best foreign film, a movie out of Argentina called "Wild Tales." It's an anthology of six separate, unrelated stories. And Bob says they all live up to the film's title.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: The opening relatos salvaje, or wild tale, would make a great "Twilight Zone" episode. Passengers on a commercial airline flight start talking amongst themselves in mid-voyage and realize they all - everyone on the plane - know fellow named...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WILD TALES")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As character) Pasternak. Gabriel Pasternak.

MONDELLO: Their memories are not fond ones. His third-grade teacher remembers telling him he was being held back. There's a music critic...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WILD TALES")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Pasternak.

MONDELLO: Who panned his work - a boss who let him go, a model who cheated on him.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WILD TALES")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (Speaking Spanish).

MONDELLO: And the more they share their stories, the more nervous everyone gets - with good reason, as it turns out. It's a nifty start for a film that will repeatedly take a dark, comic idea and run with it until it turns apocalyptic. There's a story about a towing company, for instance, that chooses the wrong guy to torment over parking violations - turns out he's a demolitions expert. Another tale looks at two restaurant employees and the cataclysm that unfolds when they decide to hold a gangster in their diner accountable for his crimes.

These stories aren't related to each other, except that each of them expresses exasperation verging on outrage at some aspect of Argentine society. The towing company story is all about getting back at bureaucracy. The airline one has fun at the expense of psychiatry. Others deal with corruption and social privilege. Writer-director Damian Szifron gives each one loads of gallows humor and a different mood and shooting style. Unlike most American comedies, which tend to be just bright, each of these stories has its own elegant look - even a gloriously slapsticky road-rage battle that starts out feeling like a live action roadrunner cartoon - but by the end, has come almost Tarantino-esque.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WILD TALES")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (Speaking Spanish).

MONDELLO: Szifron caps his comic anthology with a lushly imagined bridezilla finale that is weird and sexy and violent enough to make you think of the wild tales of director Pedro Almodovar.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WILD TALES")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #3: (Speaking Spanish).

MONDELLO: Which makes sense since Almodovar is listed as one of the film's producers. But he's only one of many influences for a collection of wild tales that's clever, gorgeously shot and quite a romp. I'm Bob Mondello.

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