Monday, 4 August 2014

NZIFF Review - Joe and Wild Tales

NZIFF Review - Joe and Wild Tales

Heading back into Southern Gothic territory, David Gordon Green gives us the story of Joe, a tough Mississippi woodsman who takes a youngster Gary under his wing.

Joe's an ex-con with a volatile temper who's trying to avoid going back to jail, but this latest course of action sets him on a collision course with Gary's drunken and violent father. Will he give in to his dark side?

Joe certainly has the moody feel of the American deep South a la Mud, even if the story is not quite as engaging. With facial hair aplenty though it's Nicolas Cage who impresses as the titular Joe, a simmering man waiting to explode in this slice of Southern Gothic.

Tye Sheridan (who did star in Mud) impresses as Gary, a conflicted boy who just wants what's best for his family as this slow burning flick kicks into gear. As a surrogate to Gary, it's Cage though who owns this film from beginning to end despite the brooding and building soundtrack trying to push all of your viewing buttons.

This taut tale of doing the right thing is a quietly impressive piece which has a dry rich humour occasionally thrown it. It's more a simmering cauldron of resentment though and you'd be wise to hunker down for it - and enjoy Cage finally giving up on his OTT acting and turning in a performance that's watchable from start to tragic end.

Wild Tales was Auckland's closing night film - and the audience ecstatically clapping by the start of the opening will give you an idea of why this Argentinian flick was a Cannes sensation.

Six short films about revenge / vengeance are thrown together in this 2 hour piece from director Damian Szifron. And about two thirds of them are successful - though nothing really reaches the opening short's dizzying heights about a model on a plane; quite simply that freeze frame into the titles is one of the best I've glimpsed all year.

The following two shorts also work as well - one about poisoning and another that demonstrates road rage is a very real and ongoing problem.

One short within the mix that does stand out for all the wrong reasons though is a piece about a rich family trying to cover up their son's involvement in a hit and run by implicating their gardener. It's an horrifically ugly piece that is repugnant and could do with being dropped despite its acting prowess on display.

I'm guessing these shorts generally showcase a growing feeling of dissatisfaction with authority in Argentina, such as they are basically a series of fingers to those in power - from a corrupt official to parking warden bureaucracy, they all hit that note.

The portmanteau showcases very recognisable feelings of frustration at civic bureaucracy and the idiosyncracies of life, but all in all, Wild Tales is a farcical way to end the festival and an overall slickly polished compendium to put a blackly comic smile on everyone's faces.

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