Toronto: Fest Fan Favorite 'Wild Tales' Could Take Argentina Back to Oscars

'Wild Tales,' Damian Szifron (Competition)

Cannes regular Pedro Almodovar won't be in this year's competition, but this comedy from Argentine director Damian Szifron could be the next best thing. Almodovar is one of the producers of the feature, a series of comic sketches that should provide some welcome laughs amid Cannes' typically grim selection of political and social dramas. Wild Tales marks Szifron's first appearance in Cannes. (Sales: Film Factory)

Sometimes a film can "go viral." Such was the case with Wild Tales, an Argentinean comedy written and directed by Damian Szifron that had its world premiere in Cannes back in May, about which I knew absolutely nothing when the Oscar season kicked off just two weeks ago, but which quickly became the talk of Telluride and Toronto, prompting me to finally catch up with it on Tuesday night at the latter fest. Suffice it to say: the hype was merited.

The film -- which Sony Pictures Classics is giving an awards-qualifying run this year before releasing next spring -- is comprised of six shorts, none of which are related, apart from sharing themes of vengeance and tones of anarchism, but all of which feature laugh-out-loud moments and most of which closed to applause at the screening I attended.

Considering that each of them is better than many of the shorts that have been awarded Oscars during the time I've been on this beat, it should not come as a surprise that, collectively, they form a feature that will be a serious contender, in its own right.

Indeed, not only will Wild Tales almost certainly be Argentina's submission for the best foreign language film Oscar — for which it has had six films nominated, and which The Official Story (1985) and The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) won — but it will also have a real shot at landing a best original screenplay Oscar nom, too, which is something that only 53 non-English language films have ever done, The Official Story being one of them.

Szifron, 39, has apparently made a couple of other features in Argentina, but I never heard of him before this one. What I hear now is that people think he -- or, at least, Wild Tales -- is a blend of Luis Bunuel, Rod Serling and Pedro Almodovar (the last of whom happens to be one of the film's producers). And it's hard to disagree. This is a crazy, smart and ballsy film, of the sort that one would expect only from mavericks of that ilk.

One other noteworthy thing about the film: Gustavo Santaolalla, the two-time Oscar winner (Brokeback Mountain and Babel) who has long served as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's composer, was not involved with Inarritu's Birdman this year — but did score this film. Make of that what you will.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg