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A family scandal causes a wealthy and powerful Mexican rancher to make the pronouncement--'Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia!' Two of the bounty-hunters thus dispatched encounter a local piano-player in their hunt for information. The piano-player does a little investigating on his own and finds out that his girlfriend knows of Garcia's death and last resting place. Thinking that he can make some easy money and gain financial security for he and his (now) fiancée, they set off on this goal. Of course, this quest only brings him untold misery, in the form of trademark Peckinpah violence. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
When the priest baptizes Alfredo's son, he says the child's name in Latin; David Samuel. Sam Peckinpah's full name is David Samuel Peckinpah. See more »
As Bennie crosses inside his apartment, alone, and talks to Alfredo's head, a crewman in black clothing is visible, ducking behind an adjacent transom. His arm reappears a second later, as Bennie reaches for a bottle in the pantry. See more »
I've killed people... and worse, a whole lot worse.
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what can they *really* want with the head of Alfredo Garcia?
At one point Warren Oates's character Bennie asks this, and it may or may not be a rhetorical question at this point in the film. By this time several people are dead, though more on the way, and he's lost the love of his life and any sense of self-worth. Then again, maybe he never had much of it anyway. But the question still stands- what was Alfredo Garcia ("Al" as his head is called by Bennie as he has him in the passenger seat of his car) really in the grand scheme of things?
He's bounty for El Jefe, a wealthy Mexican rancher who sees a scandal in his daughter becoming "involved" with the notorious Garcia, and asks not too bluntly to bring his head, period. This leads to Bennie becoming involved, who is basically a drifter barfly who plays piano and has it in him to want a lot of money really bad. Bad enough, as it turns out, to bring along Elita (Isela Vega) along for the ride to find the grave he's been buried in after a car accident. But, as it's not too surprising to see in a Sam Peckinpah film, a form of hell breaks loose...actually, when it comes down to it, a form of purgatory. The question, as one might gather watching the film, is more directed to the soul than anything; how much is life worth? It's incalculable, is Peckinpah's thesis, I think, and it's this aspect of how life can lose its value in an instant that gives his film allegorical lift.
It's not just a question of the loss of life that brings some of the most extraordinary parts of 'Alfredo Garcia'. This was one of Peckinpah's most personal projects- the only one he had final cut on- and here and there I got the sense that it's as much a nihilistic plunge into the blackest despair in murderous revenge as it is a pulp fiction kind of take on film-making itself. Peckinpah, therefore, is appropriately mimicked through Oates (it's easier to see after watching a documentary on the director, though even without that it's pretty clear this has to be based on someone), as a desperado who at first is fine with selling himself out, as it were, but then as his trip goes darker and more violent and without a slice of hope- with the money turning to moot as the casualties pile up- the worth of a job well done, or what a job entails, comes into question. Peckinpah dealt with a lot of s*** in the movie business, and one could perhaps make parallels to the gun-toting Mexicans on his trail, or even the men who he's supposed to report to with said head, as producers or studio execs.
But without all of this in mind, even as it adds a bit of fascination to how Benny's fate unfolds, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia works on the levels that Peckinpah's work at its best does: it reveals violence and murder as the most unglamorous, frighteningly quick and graphically empty thing known to man. And while Peckinpah isn't quite as successful as in the Wild Bunch of corralling a perfect array of the devastating effects of shoot-em-ups in his brand of subversion, he comes close to that same level of ironic exhilaration with Bennie's path.
He even does his best to fit in a depressing love story between Benny and Elita, as they can't leave one another but all the same Elita just can't understand why he needs to get that head. It doesn't help matters that she almost gets raped- in a one-of-a-kind scene involving Kris Kristofferson in a role unlike any other I've seen him in- and is ready to call off their engagement...until there's the incident at Garcia's grave. From there on in, love is no longer the issue but- getting back to the 'soul' theme Peckipah's after, about loss. Lots and lots of loss.
And all the while Oates makes this a quintessential turn in his career. An actor in more TV shows than I could even attempt to watch, he took on this role, which doesn't allow much for easy sympathy or sentiment, and makes it completely compelling. Some may take issue with him, as well as with Vega in the role of Elita (and, in truth, she's not the greatest actress out there), not to mention Peckinpah's own warped view of humanity as taken in the film. But it's a fearless turn all the same, and by the end I couldn't see anyone else in the role, for that moment in time anyway, where Oates had a parallel wavelength with Peckinpah as to the vision of the picture.
All in all, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is about as grim and almost ludicrously hopeless, but it has some of the grittiest moments in American 70s film-making, where being uncompromising just goes with the territory. That it also gets the mind going on what it means to be self-destructive or to lose one's soul, or to just be a filmmaker, is a very good plus. A+
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