The Picturehouse chain, which is where I see these weird and wonderful films I keep reviewing, gives you a tear sheet when you go in. It has stars from 1 to 5, and you have to make a little tear on the one you think matches your movie. I gave Wild Tales a 5 without hesitation.
The following day I went to the cinema again, to see Girlhood, a coming of age film about a girl called Marième, set in les banlieues, or suburbs, of Paris.
Not much happens. There are fights. There is sex. There is domestic violence. Dreams die. I was indignant at the lack of narrative structure. Where was the goal, the conflict, the disaster? What motivation did these characters have, other than to effect minor temporary escapes from their otherwise hopeless lives? And then it ended.
“I didn’t get it,” I said to my friend Kate.
Kate, who has watched many more films than I have, explained that the film was subverting existing genres. She saw it from a point of view of sexuality: you wanted more to happen, but it didn’t, until the protagonist’s realisation right at the end of what she wanted her future to be. I saw it as being more about class, the eternal problem of how art, which has a tradition and structure essentially dominated by middle class values, depicts the lives of the less privileged. Sometimes lives are hopeless and dreary; is it artificial to pretend that they are not?
Anyway, I understood it then, but that still only gave it an extra star for me, up one from 2 to 3. The issue I have is that if I am watching a “drama” as opposed to an action or comedy type film, I want it to tell me something more complex than the basics. So, for example, I know that some men are violent towards the women in their lives, I know that when people are stranded without an education, they can be abandoned in a system without hope, I know that people form gangs to try to belong. The film didn’t really tell me much more about these issues.
I am glad I watched it though, and it is a bit weird giving films a star rating. It might not be the best film I’ve ever watched, but it still shows important things as they are, beyond the stereotypes, which are not often aired.