Monday, June 20, 2011

Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia

Writes Roger Ebert:

I think I can feel Sam Peckinpah's heart beating and head pounding in every frame in ''Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia'' (1974), a film he made during a period of alcoholic fear and trembling. I believe its hero, Bennie, completes his task with the same dogged courage as Peckinpah used to complete the movie, and that Bennie's exhaustion, disgust and despair at the end might mirror Peckinpah's own. I sense that the emotional weather on the set seeped onto the screen, haunting it with a buried level of passion. If there is anything to the auteur theory, then ''Alfredo Garcia'' is the most autobiographical film Peckinpah ever made.

The film was reviled when it was released. The reviews went beyond hatred into horror. It was grotesque, sadistic, irrational, obscene and incompetent, wrote Joy Gould Boyum in the Wall Street Journal. It was a catastrophe, said Michael Sragow in New York magazine. ''Turgid melodrama at its worst,'' said Variety. Martin Baum, the producer, recalled a sneak preview with only 10 people left in the theater at the end: ''They hated it! Hated it!''

I gave it four stars and called it ''some kind of bizarre masterpiece.'' Now I approach it again after 27 years, and find it extraordinary, a true and heartfelt work by a great director who endured despite, or perhaps because of, the demons that haunted him. Courage usually feels good in the movies, but it comes in many moods, and here it feels bad but necessary, giving us a hero who is heartbreakingly human--a little man determined to accomplish his mission in memory of a woman he loved, and in truth to his own defiant code.

The film stars Warren Oates (1928-1982), that sad-faced, gritty actor with the crinkled eyes, as a forlorn piano player in a Mexican brothel--an American at a dead end. When a powerful Mexican named El Jefe (Emilio Fernandez) discovers that his daughter is pregnant, he commands, ''bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia,'' and so large is the reward he offers that two bounty hunters (Gig Young and Robert Webber) come into the brothel looking for Alfredo, and that is how Bennie finds out about the head. He knows that a prostitute named Elita (Isela Vega) was once sweet on Alfredo, and he discovers that the man is already dead.

The Complete Review Here.

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