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Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

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Critically reviled in the US, banned in Germany, Argentina and Sweden, and a cause celebre for certain cultists, Peckinpah’s most extreme, nightmarish, and candid film is even now too raw and ragged to rest quietly in whatever plot we’ve set aside for this bete noir director. Warren Oates got the role of his lifetime (playing Peckinpah, essentially) as Benny, a cuckolded piano player who decapitates the corpse of his lover’s ex in return for $10,000 and finds something like dignity in seeing the job through.

A Texan writer-director of uncommon sensitivity Peckinpah always considered himself an outsider, out of step with a corporate world which disgusted him. He had a huge hit with The Wild Bunch in 1969 which refashioned movie violence and encouraged the studios put up with his rebellious and often self-destructive ways. By the mid 70s he was a big name, but no one could accuse him to coasting or courting commercial success after they saw this borderlands gothic.

Peckinpah: “This is the story of a man caught up in the brutality of the world around him, who loses all sense of morality with one act of violence begetting another, until there is no return to respectability, only retribution. The lasting theme of the film is that such acts only end in disaster for those involved.”

I think I can feel Sam Peckinpah’s heart beating and head pounding in every frame in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, a film he made during a period of alcoholic fear and trembling… The film was reviled when it was released. The reviews went beyond hatred into horror. It was grotesque, sadistic, irrational, obscene and incompetent, wrote Joy Gould Boyum in the Wall Street Journal. It was a catastrophe, said Michael Sragow in New York magazine. I gave it four stars and called it ’’some kind of bizarre masterpiece.’’ Now I approach it again after 27 years, and find it extraordinary, a true and heartfelt work by a great director who endured despite, or perhaps because of, the demons that haunted him.

Roger Ebert (2001)

For something so bleak, so purposely revolting and unsentimental, there are reservoirs of profound poetry in Alfredo Garcia, the only film that Peckinpah ever considered completely his own.

Nick Schager, Slant

Easily Peckinpah’s bleakest, most brutal film, and that in itself is saying something. It’s also a film that seems almost wilfully self-destructive, inasmuch as it is completely uncompromising in its vision of an utterly amoral and violent world.

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Senses of Cinema

July 26 Only: Introduction from screenwriter and filmmaker Ana Valine

Director

Sam Peckinpah

Cast

Warren Oates, Isela Vega

Credits
Country of Origin

USA/Mexico

Year

1974

Language

In English and Spanish with English subtitles

19+
112 min

Book Tickets

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Credits

Producer

Martin Baum

Screenwriter

Gordon Dawson, Sam Peckinpah

Cinematography

Álex Phillips Jr.

Editor

Garth Craven, Robbe Roberts, Sergio Ortega, Dennis E. Dolan

Original Music

Jerry Fielding

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