The Back Room

With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.

Wild Tales

Another wonderful Tuesday matinee with my bride.

Wild Tales.

Every day we do things justifiable within our personal moral universe.  We flip someone off who is being a jerk on the road.  We verbally lay into someone at work who isn’t pulling their weight.  We lie to someone we care about for their own good.  We park illegally because we’re in a hurry.  We get other people to do things for us we don’t want to do ourselves by being passive.

These are minor things that help us get our needs met.  In our universe when we achieve these small victories the world is more just.

What happens when the demands of your moral universe become more complex, or worse, when you get more than you bargained for?

Wild Tales is a selection of six morality episodes set in Argentina written and directed by 39 year-old Damian Szifron.    Produced by brothers Pedro and Augustin Almodovar, these short chapters with no connection to each other play out like mini Pedro films never made (albeit with heavy doses of testosterone rather than estrogen).  Each one more hilarious, nasty and outrageous than the next.

An airplane ride where everyone on board has something in common.  A chance meeting at a diner between a waitress and her patron.  Two drivers and a fateful decision.  A man up against a bureaucratic system.  A father trying to protect his family from the truth.  A wedding reception that gets interesting after a phone call.

These characters are in distress but sometimes the solution is messier than the problem.  Things go from bad to worse to open-mouthed shock.  There’s lots of blood with physical and emotional collisions.  There’s betrayal, greed and murder.  There’s even defecation.

It’s a lot of fun realizing our own moral code being tested, gleefully wishing the bad guy to get their comeuppance only to recant after the punishment has gone too far.  Who decides who the bad guy is anyway?

Comparisons to “Pulp Fiction” “Magnolia” “Crash” “Amores Perros” “Go” “Short Cuts” “Chungking Express” “Flesh and Fantasy” to name a few, may be made, but as each story stands alone flashing red light warnings against the unknown factor when you play by your own rules, so this film stands alone.

While giving enough ambiguity how bad things will get, Szifron maintains control of each segment resolving each one without a deus ex machina but with an organic inevitability helped along by a meandering guitar score from Gustavo Santaolalla (The Motorcycle Diaries).

Wild Tales is a delicious reminder that life is unfair and we all get what we deserve.


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