Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (Sam Peckinpah, 1974, USA) Alfredo Garcia is the Patron St. of Money; the purveyor of one broken down man’s ticket to salvation…but the price soon becomes too high. Director Sam Peckinpah begins the film with a languid camera pan across a beautiful lake, the soft musical score underlining this heavenly estate, before focusing upon a young pregnant woman relaxing casually on the shore. As she is lead to the family Patriarch, we could be witnessing a scene from the late 19th century: a huge mansion full of servants and guards, the women sullen and servile. But young Teresa is tortured into revealing the father of her baby and in one wonderful edit, the anachronistic illusion is shattered by modern cars racing down the dirt lane, their goal a million dollars for the head of Alfredo Garcia. The journey takes us to Mexico City where Bennie, an acquaintance of the fugitive, decides to sell himself out for a ticket to the “good life” in the form of $10,000 dollars. He visits the promiscuous Elita, who can lead him to his cohort, and he unwittingly involves his girlfriend in this nihilistic tale of revenge, duty and greed. The first half of the film is a travelogue, as Bennie and Elita grow together, their past a dark mirror that casts no shadow, their future to be shared in Holy Matri-Money: but Elita is hesitant to desecrate the grave of her one-time lover, to tamper with the spirit of the dead. They are being stalked by two sweaty men in a green car, its rapacious reflection like the color of money whose evil root strangles Elita’s life: this sets Bennie on a path of violent redemption and gunpowder justice. One of Peckinpah’s most intense films, Bennie transforms from hunted into carnivore, delivering the rotting head of Garcia not for the money…but to follow the bloody trail to the vicious source. As he degenerates into madness, he holds conversations with his compadre, though the only response is the buzzing of flies and reeking perfume of death. The savage shootouts are vintage Peckinpah, an orgy of slow-motion blood and rabid gunfire, the camera capturing this unrelenting destruction, a convulsing vivisection of human nature. Bennie finally faces the family Patriarch, and while Teresa and her baby watch, he murders the old man and his entourage: his moral duty towards Elita has been fulfilled. Bennie finally understands that revenge is a dish best served in cold blood...even if it’s his own. (B)

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