Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Sam Peckinpah, 1974)
Director Sam Peckinpah often stated about Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia that it is his only film to have been released the way he intended it to be. As of today, The Wild Bunch and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid have been re released with new director’s cuts.
When one talks about the films of Peckinpah, he is obliged to mention his use of stylistic violence and the use of slow-motion and very aesthetic montage techniques. Many urban cinephile legends leaded to conclude that Peckinpah was a violent and hot-tempered man. His behavior on sets may have confirmed this statement. However, it is also evident that he collaborated with many actors and technicians often and that he was a very tender and loving man in his best days. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia sure has those trademarks of his and even if the movie was hated the time it came out, it has many great aspects even if I won’t be as enthusiast as, let’s say, Roger Ebert about it, he called the film a masterpiece, I think it is a strong piece of film.
Set in Mexico, the daughter of an important gangster named El Jefe (Emilio Fernandez) is pregnant. When wanting to know the name of the father of the unborn child, he discovers under torture that it is Alfredo Garcia, the man chosen to be the next number in the domain. Under a great wrath El Jefe demands the head of the guilty man who slept with his daughter. The men (Robert Webber and Gig Young) of El Jefe find Bennie (Warren Oates) who is a pathetic loser running a dirty bar in Mexico. Bennie knows where Garcia is and he is promised 10 000$ to bring back his head. Starting from there we are in for a one of a kind road movie meets Western and revenge film.
There are moments of pure cinematic bliss coming from a sentimental Peckinpah, especially the picnic moment with Elita (Isela Vega) under a tree. This reminded of classic Westerns and demonstrated the sweet touch of Peckinpah but also how doomed the lovers were. It is obvious that this journey to find redemption and take advantage of this situation ain’t gonna have a happy ending. Indeed, it is a classic Peckinpah film close to his director cut of The Wild Bunch but told with a loner approach. We also feel that Bennie has more to do with Peckinpah. Intoxicated with alcohol and seeking for inner peace and a steady wife, he just self-destroys himself in this fall into the underworld of El Jefe. In his later years the director suffered from alcoholism and was very self-destructive.
Overall, this is a very grimy film that displays stylistic violence but also tender moments of cinematic purity. The sparse dialogues let the strong images and brilliant editing do all the talking. I’m not sure how I would rank this movie, but I’m sure that it deserves to be on both 1001 Movies You Must See before you Die and the 1000 Greatest Films of TSPDT. A must see into Peckinpah’s filmography.