Wild Tales (aka Relatos Salvajes): Review


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Pedro Almodovar produced this suite of six short films all based on the theme of revenge, written and directed by Argentinian filmmaker Damián Szifrón and at times astoundingly photographed by Javier Julia.

(His use of bokeh in the final film on a Buenos Aires Rooftop is particularly worthy of merit – but I apologise for even mentioning it because I know how wonky that reads;)

So, in six short films there will be winners and losers and to get the bad news out of the way quickly they slightly outstay their welcome towards the end, partly because we’ve worked out how Szifrón thinks and so we can spot the plot twists a little too early.

But put that to one side and you have a sextet of extraordinarily original little gems.

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The advantage of being penned, directed and shot by the same team is that they really do hang together as a unit and there are a number of sit up in your seat bolt upright moments along with number us belly laughs.

The first of the six is something of a premonition of the Germanwings disaster but with a huge dollop of humour built in.

What follows includes a number of automotive moments.  Two of them have road rage at their core (or at least road tax rage) and both stand out.

The movie was nominated for the Foreign language Oscar but faced pretty stiff competition this year.

Me?  I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Szifrón.  It reminds me (in a different way of Amores Perros in that it uses a short film format to establish the credentials of great south American film making and that didn’t do Alejandro González Iñárritu any harm, as he has progressed to nominations for best picture with Babel and then rightfully take home the moolah with Birman this year.

Supreme film making of nearly the highest order.

Dark Horse the Documentary: Review


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Once in a while fairytales come true in real life.  This documentary charts the story of one of those times.

Louise Osmond unfolds her story in real time using a mix of interviews, reminiscences, TV footage and a variety of amateur video moments of varying quality, but the story is so compelling that some of the rougher bits merely add to the gritty reality of the tale set in the grimmest of Welsh valleys.  In a former pit village (Cefn Fforest, Caerphilly) that could certainly not be described in any way as idyllic.

It really is a ripping yarn for our times and concerns the career of a racehorse called Dream Alliance owned by a motley crew of 30 working class Welsh men and women, bred by the cleaner at Asda and mared by what could best be described as a bit of a dray horse with literally no discernible racecourse form whatsoever.  The sire perhaps had a bit more form, but hardly of Nijinsky proportions.

The subplot of the story is about class.  The most noble, most royal and most privileged sport of them all (apart from, say, polo) is horse racing.  So to enter the world of horse racing as a  bunch of 30 complete amateurs who could barely afford the £10 a week the syndicate they formed in their local pub to breed and then race a horse was more than simply a “challenge”  it was verging on the insane.

But slowly but surely Dream Alliance’s story is told, from the search for his mother and father to his birth (caught on CCTV), his childhood being raised on an allotment and then his entry (“like a snotty nosed comprehensive schoolboy arriving at Eton”) into Phillip Hobbs’ Minehead yard.

It’s perhaps ironic that Hobbs assistant trainer, Johnson White, who tells the story from the trainer’s side has every familiarity with the concept of silver spoons and was initially horrified at the prospect of these oiks and their second rate unschooled horse infiltrating his yard but at the end of the day money is money and given that many a mickle make a buckle the thirty Welsh dreamers had amassed enough of a muckle to give it a go.

I won’t spoil the story by going any further other than to say what now unfolds is Dream Alliance’s at times roller coaster career.  Told in almost breathtaking style.  There were three or four moments that had me close to tears.  Mainly in sheer admiration at Jan Vokes whose vision the whole idea was.

This is a beautiful documentary, truly heartfelt, and utterly compelling with a vestry, very warm heart and a tremendous fillip for all those dreamers out there who dare to be different.

Go and enjoy!