One of the great pleasures in life is a good dessert: pistachio ice cream and double-chocolate fudge cake are hard to resist for most of us. So I’ve sometimes used the dessert metaphor to whimsically compare culinary delights to various films I have seen, and would watch again with delight. I’d sacrifice my favorite dessert for another chance to watch STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE THIRD MAN, BRINGING UP BABY, HIS GIRL FRIDAY, or a list of other classic films.
So when I found myself browsing through “Angela’s Picks” at Vidiots in Santa Monica, California, I discovered four films—two that clearly answered the call (see my last post on PONETTE and LUNCH MID-AUGUST), and two that I don’t think measure up to dessert standards (sorry, Angela, but two raves out of four is still a great average).
IN A WORLD, written, directed and starring Lake Bell, is one of those shrink-wrapped, junk-food items that is dwarfed in its overexposed genre—the meta-film indie. The story of self-involved, struggling (in this case voice-over) actors in Hollywood trying to find love/sex/success/ money in the big city does tend to have an appeal for the festival circuit, and it’s certainly a professionally-made film, with good performances and even direction. Yet it fails to give larger illumination to the human dilemma, in ways that Truffaut’s DAY FOR NIGHT, Fellini’s 8 ½, or Robert Altman’s THE PLAYER revealed. And so it’s ultimately a film of sit-com aesthetics, a reminder of the demise of the feature film as it yields to the small (or large) flat-screen TV.
On the other hand, William Wyler’s THE GOOD FAIRY, written by Preston Sturges, is a good film. It just comes off dated, possibly because it’s based on an even older Ferenc Molnár play. Charming enough, especially for elegant performances from Margaret Sullavan and Herbert Marshall. Yet I can’t help asking: in the bake shop of available viewing, is the time expenditure worth the “calories?”
Luckily for me, a member of our Rikaroo advisory board, cinematographer John Bailey, recommended I watch the Argentine film, WILD TALES, and dessert was back on the table. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes as well as for Best Foreign Film in the 2015 Oscars, this series of vignettes, written and directed by Damián Szifrón, explores the savagery lurking just beneath the surface of our everyday interactions with one another. The opening story takes place on an airplane in which all the passengers turn out to have an intimate acquaintance with the same person—with disastrous consequences. And the final tale, of a perfect wedding that disintegrates after the groom’s sexual indiscretion, reminded me of Tarantino-esque take on WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLFF? It’s film-making at its best, visually, narratively and technically; which begs the question, why aren’t we making films like this here in the U.S.?
So for a fat-free dessert experience, take a look at WILD TALES.