AP Interview: Damian Szifron lives his own wild tale

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Posted: Jan 16, 2015 11:38 PM
AP Interview: Damian Szifron lives his own wild tale

NEW YORK (AP) — With an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film crowning a string of accolades, director Damian Szifron seems to be living his own wild tale

"Relatos Salvajes," or "Wild Tales," a widely honored comedy about violence, earned Argentina its seventh Oscar nomination Thursday. Praised for its narration and sense of humor, it has become the most-seen domestic film of all time in Argentina, with more than 3.4 million viewers. It was a hit at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Palme d'Or.

After getting the nomination, Szifron said he was "overflowing with joy, like Gene Kelly in 'Singing in the Rain.'"

He has said the film, which he also wrote, came naturally to him, "without any pain, or neurosis," ideas for the project germinating over the years as he worked on other films.

"I was driving along the road and would get into an argument with a guy, and would get all tense, and quickly from there, I'd start imagining something. And I'd stop the car in the middle of the road to write a story, which would then become a tale," he told The Associated Press in an interview.

"Then, I'd try to compress the next ideas to avoid them from becoming feature films. The result was a series of powerful tales."

The film includes six independent stories about people who lose control in stressful situations, from feeling road rage to finding out about an infidelity to using a plane as a tool for carrying out a vendetta. In each case, the protagonist feels liberated when he or she reacts in a violent way.

"Evidently, this was a sort of catharsis," Szifron said about the movie, then recounted his own wildest tale:

"I went to a restaurant with my wife and as we were starting to eat and drink a bottle of wine, they wanted to kick us out because they were closing. 'Get out, leave,' they'd say. It was unbelievable."

He began an argument and as it heated up he announced that he was going to take the bottle and glasses out and drink the wine on a nearby square because he had already paid.

"Just as I was taking everything, a waiter and the cook came out ... and all of a sudden, the cook was grabbing my wife in a really rough way and I thought he pushed her, so I punched him!

"I'm the least likely person to do something like that ... but it came from my soul. And all of a sudden I was in a fistfight with the waiter and the cook. In the midst of all that, one of the cups broke, cutting the cook's ear. He started bleeding and the police showed up," he concluded.

The "Wild Tales" cast includes Ricardo Darin, who starred in "The Secret in Their Eyes," an Argentine film that won the 2010 Oscar for best foreign-language film. Argentina also won the best foreign film category in 1985 with "The Official Story."

"It really is quite shocking. When I wrote this story I never realized the journey it could take," Szifron said. "This is my first movie that really crosses boundaries and is being shown in many festivals, so in comparison to what I've done before, I feel that this is an absolute revolution. I feel revolutionized."

This year's other nominees in the foreign film category include "Leviathan" from Russia, "Ida" from Poland, "Timbuktu" from Mauritania and "Tangerines," an Estonian-Georgian film.

The winners of the 87th Academy Awards will be announced at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 22.

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Sigal Ratner-Arias on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sigalratner