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BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA

Director: SAM PECKINPAH

U.S.A.-MEXICO • 1974 • COLOUR • DIGITAL • 112 MIN


RE-RELEASED IN DIGITAL FORMAT TO COINCIDE WITH A MAJOR SAM PECKINPAH RETROSPECTIVE, ALFREDO GARCIA IS ONE OF THE DIRECTOR’S MOST PERSONAL AND UNDERRATED FILMS.
Alfredo Garcia has impregnated the teenage daughter of a Mexican patriarch who demands the man’s head in retribution. The contract comes to the attention of a down-at-heel pianist (Warren Oates) in Mexico, who knows something the other bounty hunters do not: that Garcia is already dead. Easy enough, then, with the help of a woman (Isela Vega) he and Garcia loved, to locate the grave, decapitate the corpse and collect the reward. Twenty-one deaths later, he has discovered that life is not that simple.
This film has always been something of a test-case for Sam Peckinpah aficionados: inadvertent self-parody or inimitable self-revelation? Like many of his films, it is an existential quest that unleashes psychological demons. It is also a love story that diverts into nightmare; and a Gothic extravaganza where a man’s head becomes both the hero’s companion and his golden fleece, or at least his treasure of the Sierra Madre (a film alluded to in the movie and one of Peckinpah’s favourites). ‘I tried to say it all,’ said Warren Oates about what is arguably his greatest screen performance, ‘what I knew about Sam and his love for Mexico. I tried to do Sam Peckinpah: his mannerisms, everything he did.’ Many critics were calling for the head of its director after the film’s first release, but it demands rediscovery as a deeply personal work, scathing about religious hypocrisy and with one of Peckinpah’s most fascinating fatalistic heroes gradually transforming himself from mercenary opportunist to moral avenger as his options narrow. — Neil Sinyard.

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