[Anthology movies are tricky, slippery things that don’t often strike mainstream success. Why watch a bunch of short movies when you could watch a single long one? And even when such movies are successful, they’re mostly marriages of convenience, collaborative efforts to explore a single, geographically-bound theme—a way to accommodate multiple egos in one space, if you will. New York Stories (1989) was the brainchild of heavy hitters Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Woody Allen, and Paris, je t’aime (2006), probably the most high-profile anthology movie of the last decade, featured no fewer than 22 directors, from Alfonso Cuarón to the Cohen Brothers to Gurinder Chadha. But Paris, je t’aime, like many movies of its genre, was uneven, with duds embedded among gems. These movies are inconsistent by design, and it shows.
But there’s a reason anthology movies often center around a particular place. They free directors of the constraints of narrative so that they can simply paint an impressionistic portrait of a particular place.
Wild Tales, written and directed by the relatively unknown Damián Szifrón, is the rare anthology movie that transcends the limits of its form, combining the advantages of its genre with clever writing, a superb sense of comedic timing, and diligent editing to produce a compilation of shorts as good as any feature-length film. It vividly captures life in twenty-first-century Argentina, its frustrations and pitfalls, traffic jams and high-rises, while still giving us memorable characters and complex plot developments.]