Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bring Me a Movie

A couple nights ago I watched the Sam Peckinpah movie, 'Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.' Peckinpah considered it perhaps his best effort, or at least the one closest to his vision. The public and the critics did not agree.

It was criticized for being violent, which it was, and for being melodramatic, which it also was. Some loved it, some hated it, and few fell in between. Few showed (or stayed) in the theaters to watch it, as well.

At any rate, it was a film that inspired emotions and still does. Undoubtedly, it was a bit ahead of its time. And undoubtedly it, and Peckinpah's work in general, influenced a great many makers of movies since.

The best thing about it, almost everyone agrees, is the acting, especially that of Warren Oates. Oates was such a marvelous actor and he did get a few great roles in his career. Not as many as he deserved but he did some fine work in those he took and this may have been the best. He seems a very real person here, dealing with an increasingly unreal and out of control world. People who don't fit in their world is a recurrent theme in Peckinpah's movies, from 'Ride the High Country' on down to 'Junior Bonner.'

The cinematography is pretty darn good too, and well suited to telling the story. Nothing is pretty about the camera shots yet there is a beauty to them as they catch the characters and the Mexican settings. It's the beauty we can see ourselves, from our windows, on our streets, brought into focus.

Like the critics, I perhaps both love and hate this movie. It does have the touch of an over-indulgent director -- Sam Peckinpah was definitely playing auteur. But considering how much the lead character, portrayed by Oates, is a reflection of Peckinpah himself, that works in its way.

'Head' is, essentially, a quest story, but one with a few twists and an ending that, if not exactly happy, still manages to satisfy. The stylized storytelling works -- I suspect that Quentin Tarantino and the brothers Cohen, among others, may have watched this movie a time or two.

If I were the sort to rate things (and maybe I am) I'd probably give it a thumbs-up, a four-out-of-five, and a do-see recommendation. And I'd suggest a posthumous Oscar for Warren Oates.

SB 2011

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