Five minutes with Wild Tales director Damián Szifrón

Multiple-story portmanteau films rarely work, which is why the new black comedy anthology Wild Tales comes as such a delight. Demetrios Matheou bent the ear of the Argentine director, Damián Szifrón.

Demetrios Matheou
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Wild Tales (2014)

Wild Tales (2014)

“I think audiences recognise something of themselves in my characters, even when they go to extremes that no-one wants to go to in real life,” says Damián Szifrón. “Movies can be very cathartic.”

The Argentine writer-director is speaking about the ecstatic reactions to his black comedy Wild Tales, a portmanteau of six stories, some involving revenge, others a variety of extravagant responses to things that gall us all – cheating partners, bad drivers, bureaucracy. “The theme that runs through all of them is the pleasure of reacting, of losing control and feeling good about it – even if the stories don’t always end well.”

There are no connecting characters or story threads, the film bonded instead by imagination, humour and stylistic verve.

“I don’t think I’ve ever made a film that’s pure genre, though I would love to,” he says. “But there are genre elements here. You can notice the presence of westerns in the road rage episode. And in the wedding scene I thought of Disney films, and tried to make the bride a Cinderella who’s not allowed to go to the party.” Anyone who sees the film will observe that Szifrón’s idea of Disney is somewhat perverse.

Wild Tales (2014)

Wild Tales (2014)

Wild Tales is a rare thing: a successful portmanteau film. Szifrón’s Spanish producers, Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar, encouraged him “not to have the portmanteau fear”, he recalls. “It didn’t scare me. I like anthology books, and when you have the same writer pulling stories together it works very well. And there are a few good examples of portmanteau films, such as Amazing Stories, and the Dino Risi films of the 60s. Then Pulp Fiction, which in a way was incredibly coherent.

“I thought about connecting the stories in a way Pulp Fiction does. But finally I thought it was more original to let the thing breathe. The title is all that I needed.”

So has he ever just ignored common sense and let himself lose control? “I’m brave, but I’m weak,” he laughs. “I never get out of the car.”

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