A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

El Mariachi

May 5, 2011

El Mariachi

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Apparently it is not so much a Mexican holiday as one promoted in America by beer companies (according to the wiki) but we figured we’d watch a Mexican movie nonetheless. A really great Mexican movie.

Robert Rodriguez, as I’m sure I have mentioned in some past reviews, is a genius. This is the movie that proved that to the world. With $7000 and no crew, recording his dialog on a cassette recorder and using a wheelchair for his dolly shot. This is amongst the greatest, classiest, and coolest independent films ever made.

The plot itself is fairly simple. A ruthless drug lord has made the decision to kill one of his rivals rather than paying him the money he owes for some past deal they had. Moco, the man in white, lives in a palatial villa and has his tendrils in every little business in the nearby town. His rival Azul (who wears black and not blue as his name would imply) has been living in a seedy jail, from which he has continued to run his own businesses. Moco dispatches some assassins to kill Azul in his jail cell, but they fail, and Azul sets out on a mission of vengeance, with a guitar case filled with weapons as his preferred tool.

The Mariachi of the title is a simple fellow who wanders into town looking for work at the wrong time. Moco’s gang are looking for a man wearing black with a guitar case, and they mistakenly think that the mariachi is their man. After he evades them (killing a couple in the process) he hides out in the saloon of a beautiful young woman named Domino.

It’s your typical mistaken identity western, with the mariachi on the run and forced to defend himself. Of course it turns out that Domino has her bar as a gift from Moco, who has been wooing her. You know that’s not going to end well.

What makes this movie so much fun is the sheer audacity of its production. Rodriguez has a keen clarity of vision and you can sense, watching this movie, how meticulously planned and executed it was. Take, for example, the opening shots of Azul’s jail and the police woman arriving to take over her shift guarding him. I get the sense, watching this, that it was almost edited in-camera. That every shot was set up, filmed once, and then immediately he’d move the camera for the next shot. It flows so smoothly and has such a distinctive style to it. Apparently (according to the trivia on IMDB) he did the dialog for most scenes in single takes. If an actor flubbed their lines he’d move the camera to a new angle and re-start the scene just before the flubbed line.

Basically what I’m saying is that this movie is astonishing to me because I have seen so many other low budget movies in my day. This movie had a smaller budget than Manos: The Hands of Fate or The Beast of Yucca Flats. The only reason it works is that Robert Rodriguez is a man who knows exactly how to bring the movie he has in his head to the screen. It’s a unique talent. Tomorrow we’ll see what happens when he’s given a big Hollywood budget and big name actors.

May 5, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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