"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Desperado (Columbia, 1995)


Cartoon





 
 
This more-Hollywood sequel to El Mariachi screened at Cannes in 1995 and has cultish pretensions. It’s a cartoon, really, a well-drawn storyboard translated to the screen, a comic with real actors. It’s a Mexican Western in the sense that a lone stranger comes into town looking for revenge, shoots up the place, gets the girl and rides off into the sunset. It also continues the spaghetti western theme of WMD hidden in musical instruments.
 
Comic translated to the screen
 
Guitars play a big part, not only as machine guns and rocket launchers. There’s a nice bit where Banderas puts down an elegant guitar and its curves are immediately referred to as the camera plays on those of Salma Hayek. Once Hayek and Banderas have made love, we see the arch badman stubbing out a cigar in a nasty guitar ashtray.
 
Hayek sensational
 
The town is called ‘Santa Cecilia’, and she was the patron saint of music. The music for this film has a modern mariachi sound and is interspersed with rock anthems. I heard Santana and some Dire Straits in there (you can tell I'm old). It all has a very early 90s look and sound to it. The fashions, cars and telephones date the movie exactly.
 
The great Steve
 
The film benefits from good acting, especially in the scenes between Steve Buscemi and Antonio Banderas. La Hayek is absolutely sensational. Jennifer Lopez tried out for the part and she would have been fabulous too. The casting people did well to find someone as beautiful as Hayek. The heavies are excellently dumb and violent. Cheech Marin is great as the barman – a reference to ¡Three Amigos!? Come to think about it, when wasn't Cheech a bar tender?
 
Cheech
 
It was filmed in Cuidad Acuña, Coahuila and the bar shoot-out was, er, shot in the Corona Bar there.

The dialogue is slick and has a Tarantino tone to it. Tarantino has a bit part, in fact. It all makes for a cool action pic which does not take itself seriously yet is seriously well made.
 
Imprimatur of cool
 
I liked the yellow road sign warning of scorpions as El Mariachi walks into town. We later see that he wears a scorpion on the back of his jacket.

Good stuff if you like modern Westerns with loads of shooting, and films which are cheerfully over the top. Not for you if you are looking for John Ford art-Westerns…
 
The three amigos

 

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