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Laramie Movie Scope:
Wild Tales

Black comedies of violent vengeance in Argentina

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2014; Relatos salvajes, Spanish) In "Pasternak," the first of writer/director Damián Szifrón's six black comedies of violent vengeance in Argentina, on a commercial flight Salgado (Dario Grandinetti) after assisting with her carryon luggage inquires of Isabel (Maria Marull), seated across the center aisle from him, her occupation. She's a model; he's a classical-music critic.

When she mentions her former boyfriend's having been a musician, he asks the name. No one well-known, Gabriel Pasternak. "He submitted his thesis at the Conservatory of Music when I was president of the jury," says Salgado matter-of-factly: "I ripped him apart." Isabel remembers ruefully, having been there with the devastated Pasternak.

"What a huge coincidence!" exclaims Professor Leguizamón (Mónica Villa), overhearing the conversation from in front of Salgado: "Gabriel Pasternak was my student at Palomar Elementary School. I had to tell him he was being held back." Another former student and classmate of Gabriel's says: "Ignacio Fontana. Remember me?" "Unbelievable!" declares the professor: "There's a cosmic coincidence here!"

Everyone on the aircraft has some unfortunate connection with Gabriel Pasternak. Isabel admits that she cheated on Gabriel with his best friend. The distraught stewardess announces: "Gabriel Pasternak is the cabin chief on this flight." Pasternak's psychiatrist pounds on the locked cockpit door, pleading with Pasternak as the plane makes a beeline for his parents' home.

II, "The Rats." As Minichelo enters a café, he addresses Moza (Julieta Zylberberg) the waitress sarcastically. She recognizes him from her hometown as a gangster, a loan shark responsible for her father's committing suicide, who after the funeral attempted to seduce her mother, forcing them to leave.

Hearing this tale of woe, the cook (Rita Cortese) recommends, rather than Moza's wanting merely to insult him: "Let's put rat poison in his food." Hesitant to carry out such a drastic crime of revenge, Moza expresses concern about being sent to prison, but the cook assures her from personal experience that incarceration isn't too bad.

She then discovers that Minichelo is running for mayor. After the meal is served, Minichelo's son Alexis enters the café to join his father at the table. Horrified by her involvement in a double homicide, Moza tries to interrupt the diners' repast.

III, "The Strongest." While driving a new Audi, a slower, older-model car in front of Diego Iturralde (Leonardo Sbaraglia) attempts to prevent him from passing. When he finally manages to pass, he flips a bird at the other, older driver along with shouting obscenities.

Farther down the remote roadway, Diego's vehicle has a flat. Pulling over near a bridge crossing a river between Salta and Cafayate, Diego, not handy with a jack, calls for assistance on his cellphone before beginning to replace the tire on his own. As Mario (Walter Donado) comes up from behind, Diego locks himself inside the Audi, saying to the driver he'd insulted: "If I offended you, I apologize."

Mario takes a hammer to the windshield, initiating a passionate deadly duel between the two men of different social classes.

IV, "Little Bomb." An explosives engineer for building demolitions, Simón Fischer (Ricardo Darin) arrives late for his daughter's birthday because his car gets towed while he's inside a bakery purchasing a cake for her party. He futilely protests to a bureaucrat in a "corrupt system" that the curb wasn't painted yellow. His wife Victoria (Nancy Dupláa) accuses him of using excuses of always blaming society for his absences.

Another time, the third occasion, when he's again towed - someone recommends that he relax and pay rather than suffer a heart attack - his vicious outburst against a Kafkaesque system lands him in jail. The bad publicity costs him his job; Victoria files for divorce; and for his recent unruly behavior a judge denies him custody of his daughter. This is the last straw for the man who will be hailed as "Dynamite."

V, "The Proposal." After a hit-and-run, from which a pregnant woman and her unborn fetus die, Santiago (Alan Daicz) tearfully confesses his crime to his wealthy father Mauricio Pereyra (Oscar Martinez) and mother Helena (Maria Onetto) at their home in San Isidro. Mauricio quickly makes arrangements with his attorney (Osmar Núñez) to offer the family's groundskeeper of 15 years, José Torres, $500,000, a sum greater than he can earn in his lifetime, to confess to the accident and serve a few years in prison.

When the investigating detective regards José's account as dubious, the attorney negotiates with the policeman and then the prosecutor, raising the price well beyond what Mauricio is willing to pay.

VI, "Until Death Do Us Part." During the reception following the wedding, bride Romina (Erica Rivas) becomes suspicious of a female co-worker of her new husband based on a coincidence of phone numbers matching her husband's guitar teacher with that of the girl's. As she dances with Ariel (Diego Gentile), Romi asks him: "Did you sleep with that girl?"

Unforgettable, but forgivable?

Suddenly departing from the celebration and wedding guests for the roof, sobbing, Romina looks over the edge to the city street far below. When a man wearing a cook's cap approaches her, she listens to his calming advice. Just as Ariel with a friend reaches the rooftop, the cook is rutting between Romi's thighs.

She turns on Ariel with a tirade, declaring that she will be the spouse in control of the marriage with unlimited promiscuous privileges while holding over his head a threat of divesting him of everything if he ever files for divorce. Filled with vindictiveness, she returns to the reception to consummate the wedding with scornful retaliation.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)