By Benjamín Harguindey
Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes) is easily the most hyped movie of the year: an international big-budget co-production signed by Pedro Almodóvar, scored by Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla, directed by the immensely popular TV showrunner Damián Szifron (in a comeback no less) and featuring a star-studded cast of A-list actors such as Ricardo Darín, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Oscar Martínez, Julieta Zylberberg, Rita Cortese, Erica Rivas and Darío Grandinetti. You haven’t seen a crowd-pleaser this big since The Secret in Their Eyes.
The film is composed of a series of segments that are thematically related by everyday “slice of life” spiraling out of control and usually into the realm of dark comedy. Following a press screening, the director and his leading cast gathered around for a conference at Hoyts Abasto. They were joined by producers Axel Kuschevatzky and Hugo Sigman.
A lot of the stories in the movie are linked by the motif of social violence. Is that a comment on actuality? There’re those that refer to this social malaise. Did you mean to address it?
SZIFRON: I must’ve meant something by it, but I think the movie expresses so much more than just the stuff I consciously decided to address. I’m more interested in your view of the movie than mine. Regarding this “malaise”, one evidently becomes a sort of antenna that goes around picking up what’s happening in your surroundings. That happens to anybody dedicated to any form of artistic discipline. You feed on reality, and what you put up on that big screen feeds reality back. For as long as I have memory I’ve experienced this social malaise you talk about. I’ve seen it in many countries. But yes, the movie casts a critical eye on society and the distortion of social behavior.
How did you go about putting up this “dream team” for the making of this movie?
SIGMAN: The actors and actresses were enormously generous in taking part of the project, their collaboration was extraordinary and I’m not just talking about their performances. We saw the finished movie at the Warner Bros. studios in Spain, with Agustín and Pedro Almodóvar. When the screening ended, the Warner CEO said “This doesn’t feel like a Spanish or a Latin American movie”. We always dreamt of doing a movie this big. Our objectives were to do a movie with [social] content, to make it fun and to make it massive. To have such a wonderful writer and director like Damián [Szifron] as well as this group of exceptional professionals is what made it possible.
The press questions started veering towards the cast and working with Damián Szifron.
SBARAGLIA: Damián is a very precise director about what he wants, absolutely precise. He always directs you with the spectator in mind. He says “I’d like the audience to think this here, I’d like the audience to feel this there”. Sure enough, once you see the movie with an audience you realize how every little tweak adds up to that one effect he was going for.
GRANDINETTI: It was my first time working with him, and I was pleased to find a man that knew full well what he wanted and created a very good workplace atmosphere. When we actors find a director in whom we can trust, there’s nothing we like more than letting him direct us, letting him tell us what to do. That doesn’t happen a lot. You’re thankful when that happens.
SZIFRON: I could speak just as gratefully about them. They say it was easy for them, but for me it was even easier because they’d come and perform excellently since take one. We bui
Then there was some talk about the movie’s successful stint at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
SZIFRON: We spent hours filling the entry application, trying to figure out what genre it belonged to. It has humor, but I wouldn’t say it’s a comedy. It has drama, but I wouldn’t call it drama either, there’s a lot of laughter. One of our producers suggested the term “catastrophe movie”. I thought that sounded good. It’s about characters that go through a process of unleashing themselves. And people can relate to that pleasure of losing yourself in something.
MARTÍNEZ: People were laughing and stomping all throughout the eve of the premiere, in every single segment. They would applaud gestures, punchlines, endings, jokes, characters’ exit… Almodóvar himself was sitting right next to me that evening and he told me that this kind of reaction was uncommon in that kind of audience, who tend to express themselves more economically. It was a wonderful night. It felt like we were watching the movie back in a theater in Argentina.
Wild Tales premieres August 14th in Argentina; September 17th in France, Spain and Poland and October 30th in the Netherlands.