Welcome back to Cannes Check, In Contention's annual preview of the films in Competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival, which kicks off on May 14. Taking on different selections every day, we'll be examining what they're about, who's involved and what their chances are of snagging an award from Jane Campion's jury. Next up, perhaps the most unexpected selection of the lot: Damián Szifrón's "Wild Tales."
The director: Damián Szifrón (Argentinian, 38 years old). Arguably the least familiar name in the Competition to most Cannes-goers, Szifrón is the only South American representative in a lineup that isn't as geographically diverse as it could be. (Asia, in particular, seems to have been sold short, but that's another discussion.) Perhaps there was an element of cultural balancing to his inclusion, perhaps not; either way, he's not a filmmaker who has previously been on the major festival radar, having largely been limited to the Spanish and Latin-American circuit until now. In his home country, the Buenos Aires-born genre craftsman is still best known for his 2002-3 television series "The Pretenders," which has been remade in several non-English-speaking regions. His debut feature, 2003's "Bottom of the Sea" was a mainstream hybrid thriller that won a handful of smaller festival awards; his 2005 follow-up, the buddy-cop comedy "On Probation," was less well received, but performed well domestically. Since then, he has been working extensively in TV; "Wild Tales" is his third feature.
The talent: Ricardo Darin is more or less the current face of Argentine cinema, having starred in such key films as "Nine Queens" and "The Secret in Their Eyes"; no surprise, then, to see him headlining this one. Leonardo Sbaraglia broke through in 2001 with "Intacto" and recently made his English-language debut in "Red Lights"; Dario Grandinetti is best known for his leading role in Pedro Almodovar's "Talk to Her."
The Almodovar connection isn't coincidental, given that the Spanish Oscar-winner and his brother Agustin act as producers here. (That presumably aided the film's selection too.) Szifrón wrote the screenplay, and edited the film with Pablo Barbieri Carrera. Two-time Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla ("Babel," "Brokeback Mountain") returns to his home ground to compose the score.
The pitch: In a Competition lineup that is, as ever, short on laughs, "Wild Tales" is apparently bringing the comedy -- and in quite a dark, unconventional fashion. When announcing the film at the press conference, festival director Thierry Fremaux said the film had been chosen to "wake up" festival-goers and provoke strong reactions, which could mean any number of things. This much we know: it's a compilation of six independent stories apparently hinging on the quest for success in the modern world and the heated emotions it inspires. "Many people get stressed out or depressed," reads the synopsis. "Some burst. This is a film about them." That's all we've got folks.
The prestige: To most viewers, Szifrón is a pretty unknown quantity: with only two previous features to his name, neither of them given wide international exposure, he can't claim much prestige, but he has no reservations to overcome either. The surprise factor, and the fact that the film is sure to resemble nothing else in the Competition, both work in its favor. Fremaux seems genuinely jazzed about the selection, though he's thrown us some strange lemons in the past.
The buzz: We barely know what the film is at this point, much less what it's like -- there are whispers that Almodovar's involvement might have rubbed off stylistically, but perhaps not. Curiosity isn't quite the same as buzz, but it has our attention. Strange that it hasn't been programmed later in this festival, when sketch-based comedy might come as a welcome relief from gruelling auteur fare.
The odds: An eccentric compilation comedy from a Cannes newbie doesn't exactly scream "Palme d'Or," so the odds are duly long: Jigsaw Lounge and Paddy Power both have it at or near the back of the pack, with odds of 33-1. Still, a bit of novelty never hurts with a jury -- if the film really is a standout (in any sense of the word) or a provocation, it might find enough champions to get it, say, the Jury Prize.
The date: "Wild Tales" premieres on Saturday, May 17.
Next in Cannes Check, we'll close out the Competition with the film that is, well, closing out the Competition: Andrei Zvyagintsev's "Leviathan."
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Let Streaming Genie help you.