Wednesday, April 28, 2010


At the San Francisco Film Festival held in 1974 at which Peckinpah was honored with a retrospective of his work, he answered an inquiry about whether he ever hoped to release a "pure Peckinpah" film. Here is what Peckinpah replied- “I did it already in Alfredo Garcia, and I did it exactly the way I wanted to. Good or bad, like it or not, that was my film full of the brutal and disturbing world depicting my own paranoia of making my signature film.”

‘Alfredo Garcia’ is about the head that worth a million dollars and the lives of 21 people. El Jefe’s young daughter was impregnated by now dead Alfredo and he announced a bounty of million dollars for the man who brings him the head of Alfredo Garcia. And next we see, the chase and hunt for the head taking a different turn with the entry of black sunglass clad piano player of bar named Bennyy. The rest is over to the Master of violence Sam Peckinpah.

Peckinpah’s most nihilist and the most brutal vision of violence wouldn’t be the same without Benny, a sunglass clad piano player of bar meeting his nightmarish nemesis in Mexico with almost western treatment of seedy characters and setting. Warren Oates gave fine intense and dynamite kind of performances as Benny and it’s one of the greatly under rated American anti-hero character I’ve ever seen. His whore girlfriend played by Isla Vega too deserves praise on all accounts. Peckinpah gave full throttle to Benny’s desperation. In scenes of his talking with head under intoxication in the car, he reveals his inner burning self which later we witnessed as external fire. In the beginning the head is the ticket to start new life for him but in the end it becomes an unwanted fixation which ignited the spark of all that violence which becomes reason to kill the lives of 21 people. Watch the shattering scene before climax- Three cars on the road, bullets, bloodshed, an old man with hands up and desperate Benny with a gun and a head.

Though we don’t see a single frame showing the head of Alfredo out of that sack, Peckinpah made it almost as one of the prominent character of the film. Like Benny, we also constantly remain in the company of the head covered with sleazy sack and buzzing flies over it. Violence always breed violence and perhaps Peckinpah wanted to tell us that what starts with violence never ends with bounty prize of million dollars but with the bullets. Its not routine formulaic violent film as some critics pointed it; Peckinpah ended it quite metaphorically with redemptive theme of Benny who became a loner with guilty consciousness of sacrificing his most beloved companion of life. What is the mean of profit, if a man gains the whole world at the loss of his love? Here Benny goes to the root of the cause and finished it like a fighter paying deadly prize to sacrifice himself and his lover in the climax- all Peckinpah trademark slow motion gun fire.

With all its violence, melancholy and beauty, I would love to compare the film with Ernest Hemigway’s classic novels and his American macho heroes. Aren’t Alfredo’s head and Benny’s struggle to get the prize metaphorically symbolizes Hemingway’s brilliant ‘The Old Man and The Sea’ where old Santiago caught the prize of a giant fish and struggled to save it from deadly sharks returns with skeleton on shore.

It’s undoubtedly Peckinpah’s Masterpiece… Must watch on all accounts.


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