Monday, 5 January 2009

bring me the head of alfredo garcia (w&d. peckinpah, w. dawson)

There are films that linger in the background, which might also be the sub-conscious. Half seen, once, on a black and white TV screen late at night in a cold Dunnington flat. Beyond remembrance. The title awaiting the day it catches up with you, nails you to the seat, and asks: what kept you so long?

The co-director is a big Peckinpah fan. I've watched Pat Garrett and Cross of Iron with him. He says Peckinpah's title sequences are worth the entrance fee alone. I'm more take it or leave it, respecting all the things for which the director is clearly to be respected, including his disreputability. However, Alfredo Garcia is another matter, a title so evocative that it conjures up films which could never be made, made out of myths which have been long since forgotten.

In other words, the film had no hope of living up to the hype my imagination had bestowed upon it. And yet... somehow, it does. Pull it off. More as a result of its rough edges than its perfection. (The quest for which dogs and demeans any film industry.) 

Once again Mexico plays its weird role in the Gringo psyche. The other side of the border, where lawlessness is the norm. Just like a McCarthy novel, the film opens in a seemingly timeless epoch, a girl sitting by a lake, approached by peones on horseback. Only when there's a brutal cut to a plane taking off do we realise this is the twentieth century. This Mexico is the place to go to lose your soul and see if there's anything left at the end. Warren Oates' character, Bennie, has already lived in Mexico City a number of years, his soul a thing of the past. Somehow the quest to locate and deliver a severed head offers him the chance of redemption. It comes as no surprise, however, that Peckinpah decided to change his ending, and ensure the pay-off that was always awaiting Bennie after his dance with the devil. A website informs that the thick shades Oates wears throughout belonged to Peckinpah: it's clear that the director of this film knew a thing or two about flirting with damnation.

But it doesn't seem entirely appropriate to talk too much about the film that exists, the one I saw on Saturday. I prefer to believe that the head Oates lugs around like a curse isn't Garcia's at all. Alfredo Garcia never existed. That head belongs to someone else, someone who's waiting to meet you, or me, at the end of some kind of line. The film's merely pointing us in the right direction. It's up to us to climb into the grave, get dirty, get thrown out of a dustcart with the love of our life, smelling of nothing like roses, get up, keep going, knowing it's only a question of time before we die in a hail of gunfire (if we're lucky) or from some other terminal conclusion. (Please, Bennie, not quietly in our sleep.) Who knows, if we're lucky, some avatar, seeking to save his or her soul, will come for our heads when we're gone, knowing they contain some kind of value which was never reckoned upon whilst they sat, proud but inane, on our shoulders.

1 comment: said...

a film at the top
of my shit-hot list