LET'S JUST SAY I'm no stranger to the record scratch—that moment in human interaction when politeness fails, collective agreements about normalcy retire, and situations take on a new and horrible independence. It's shocking and dangerous to be caught in such a scene, but it's also tinged with a surreal, anarchic hilarity; it's a liberating chance to blow air into the spaces between who people are and how they act. Such events are commonly known as "total shit shows," and they take time to recover from, typically leaving you two options: laugh or die.
I was still reeling from an episode of this sort when I saw Wild Tales, which strings together six short stories revolving around the micro-meltdowns of society. In each case, things fall definitively and spectacularly apart, as the gray areas of characters' motivations clash with bad luck, terrible timing, and, most of all, each other. The players have their charms and weaknesses, and they get both better and worse once the gloves are off—after the rat poison's been administered, after the car window's been smashed, after the stranger on the roof's been fucked while you're still in your wedding dress. Wild Tales is disaster porn for the socially scarred skeptic, and it restored my ability to laugh at the messy bullshit we all encounter in our pursuit of a nice life, which is all I'd dare to ask of two hours spent in a dark theater.
Written and directed by Argentine filmmaker Damián Szifrón, Wild Tales was co-produced by Agustín and Pedro Almodóvar—a surname that should help drive movie-going attentions. Hear, hear: Wild Tales and Szifrón deserve a moneyed invitation to keep working. We need more filmmakers who know when dirt and violence and being mean are more recognizable and life affirming than being well behaved.