Thursday, June 26, 2008

El Mariachi

This weekend I watched a pivotal independent film for the first time - El Mariachi. This is the film that put Robert Rodriguez on the map, that she shot across the border on money he raised from being the test subject in medical experiments, and shot with luck, friends, and no crew.

Knowing just the pieces, and the basic back story (Rodriguez was a 23 year old film student when he made this film) any sane human being would have believed that what Rodriguez was going was a giant waste of time and money instead of the industry revolution that it was. Rodriguez used real people, not actors. He wasn’t able to record synchronous sound, but recorded most of it later. He didn’t have the time, money or resources to pad his squibs so when his actors were “shot” the pain on their faces was real. Anyone would have told Rodriguez (and did tell him) that this project was doomed to failure, but Rodriguez managed to prove everyone wrong.

For those of you that haven’t seen the film here’s the concept.

A young Mariachi comes to a small Mexican town looking to find work as a Mariachi and follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, he goes door to door from cafĂ© to restaurant looking for work with his guitar case in hand. The problem is that this small town is home to Moco, a drug dealer & criminal who is being hunted down by Azul, his former partner who he ratted on and got sent to prison – and tried to kill. Azul is out for revenge on Moco and has just landed in this small town; he too goes place to place exterminating Moco’s men.

The only one that has ever seen Azul is Moco and he describes him as wearing all black, and carrying a guitar case loaded with weapons. Unfortunately, this is the same description for our Mariachi only his guitar case carries a guitar. A case of mistake identity ensues that leads our mild mannered Mariachi into a world of criminals and corruption and takes his guitar playing dreams from him.

The concept his pretty far out, but just grounded enough by performance, location and action that it works. This movie is very real, which is probably attributed to the fact that most of the scenes were shot in one, maybe two takes, giving the actors little chance to over analyze and rethink they’re reactions. And it’s original enough to attract attention. Everything that is Robert Rodriguez is present in El Mariachi.

I had the privilege of hearing Tarantino and Rodriguez speak prior to the release of Grindhouse. One of the things Tarantino said is that Rodriguez has succeeded at creating what was Francis Ford Coppola’s original vision for his company American Zoetrope; Rodriguez has managed to form a filmmaking system separate from Hollywood where the artist reigns supreme and creativity is not diminished. This all started with a little ambition, $7,000 and El Mariachi.

Director, Writer, DP, Editor & Producer: Robert Rodriguez
Mariachi: Carlos Gallardo
Domino: Consuelo Gomez
Moco: Peter Marquardt
Azul: Reinol Martinez

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