The poster to Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia shown here is just great. Was one man's life worth one million dollars and the death of 21 men? it lets you know that from the start you are going to get into something that is a bit outlandish, and probably very bloody. But, for me, somehow, this was the first Peckinpah that I have seen I did not know what I was getting into to.
The first scene didn't prepare me for any of this either. A girl is sitting at the edge of the lake. Ducks, swans, and geese are swimming in the water and she is silent. Eventually her silence is broken by a man coming up and saying her father wants to see her immediately. And then another man saying the same. She is forcefully brought to her fathers mansion where she is stripped and then asked by her father numerous times while undergoing pain who the man was that left her pregnant and heartbroken. Through tears she eventually tells him, Alfredo Garcia. Her father then places a one million dollar bounty on Alfredo Garcia's head. From there we see the doors of the mansion close and bodyguards and ruffians go in search of Alfredo Garcia.
The main character here though is Benny played by Warren Oates. He is workingas a piano player in a bar, and some bodyguards for El Jefe eventually pay teh ba a visit. Benny knows of Alfredo Garcia and figures there may be some money in this for him. He figures this job will be even easier once he learns that Alfredo is already dead. He just needs to find the grave and take the head back to these bodyguards. He then can get the cash he has earned and leave the piano playing bar scene.
Benny is not particularly a likeable character. He comes across as almost a misogynist at times. he is travelling with a prostiute, Elita, who last saw Alfredo a few weeks back. There are tender moments between the two of them. At one point where the film really grabbed a hold of me they were having a picnic together, talking marriage. This however was broken up by some ruffians and a rape. Benny was needed to come to the rescue, and even as he did, the moments of tenderness from their picnic were far gone. For every tender moment between Benny and Elita there were several of shouting or violence. They talked, or rather benny talked of how the money would be their escape. Elita talked of how it was aough just to be near Benny. But much like Benny's tender times seemed questionable in their motives, Elita too only seemed to be tender in false hope of calming Benny down. It was hard not to get the feeling that they both knew that they were just playing out teh string and nobody would come out of this okay.
And this was just the stars, or heroes. These were the people we were supposed to be rooting for. These were the least unsavory of the entire cast. Peckipah put together a cast of entirely unbeautiful people, in an unbeautiful place, performing far less than beautiful deeds for nobody other than themselves and said, this is what you will watch.
The night before I watched Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia I watched De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves. These are two entirely different ends of the spectrum. I can see myself looking back years from now on the relationship between the father and son in De Sica's film. It appealed to a sense of justice within me. And people making the wrong choices, for the right reasons. It posed questions within me and those questions will stay with me for a long time. The story lends itself to that. And then ther is Peckinpah's film here. I will remember numerous scenes from this film. The slow motion violence. I will remember my conflicted feelings. I will wonder to myself, just how misogynistic was this film really. And I will definitely remember Benny's decsent into madness. And now I find myself wondering about Benny's choices, and if he had any other real choices. And whether his reasons were right or wrong at all. I find myself on reflection liking the movie a whole lot more than I thought I did while watching it.