Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. Argentina/Spain, 2014. Corner Producciones, El Deseo, Instituto de la Cinematografia y de las Artes Audiovisuales, Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales, Kramer & Sigman Films, Televisión Federal. Screenplay by Damian Szifron. Cinematography by Javier Julia. Produced by Agustín Almodóvar, Pedro Almodovar, Esther García, Matias Mosteirin, Hugo Sigman. Music by Gustavo Santaolalla. Production Design by Maria Clara Notari. Costume Design by Ruth Fischerman. Film Editing by Pablo Barbieri Carrera, Damian Szifron. Academy Awards 2014. Cannes Film Festival 2014. Toronto International Film Festival 2014.
You get six movies for the price of one in this remarkably entertaining omnibus, a collection of stories written and directed by Damian Szifron that illuminate themes of Argentinean government and society through tales of vengeance and violence. A plane full of people discover they have one man in common who, it turns out, is looking to get revenge on them; a waitress in a rural diner realizes that the man she is serving has ties to her tragic past; a slick business man in an expensive car pisses off a country bumpkin on a dirt road; a bomb expert has his day completely ruined by the relentless bureaucracy of Buenos Aires parking authorities; a wealthy magnate tries to cover up his spoiled teenage son’s hit and run accident; last and certainly not least, a bride discovers during her wedding reception that her husband’s mistress is among her guests. This is the country where citizens burned transit commuter trains in protest over delays, so it’s no surprise to see characters responding with such vehement dedication to the frustrations they encounter. What makes this darkly humorous film such a gift is just how charismatic every single story is, with Szifron maintaining a perfect line of brittle comedy in every single one that is never undercut by slapstick silliness or trite characterizations: it’s one thing to find out that government functions are corrupt, but when you see that greed and incompetence undermine the committing of crimes it’s a whole new level of absurdity, none of it, ultimately, doing anything to weaken the ultimate power of marriage. It’s a great risk to make a film whose through line is thematic rather than narrative, but the undertaking pays off richly, accentuated by an all-star cast of Argentina’s finest actors all doing exceptional work.