Friday, May 18, 2007

El Mariachi

I just read Robert Rodriguez's book Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player, which is a lot of fun. It's a really detailed description of the process of making El Mariachi, and when I say "really detailed", I mean there are pages full of the decision of whether to edit on 3/4" video and how to do the soundtrack. There are also entertaining "behind the scenes" anecdotes about the process of making a movie for $7,000 along the lines of "whenever anyone gets shot, it's in the chest because the only way we had to mount squibs was using a weightlifting belt around people's chests".

So naturally, after reading the book I wanted to watch the movie. The only DVD I could find was the widescreen special edition, which I learned from the book is wrong. The whole movie was shot to be on video (for the Spanish Video market), so it really ought to just be full-frame. But I guess they re-edited the whole thing for the DVD. It's still weird that it's letterboxed, since this is the one time that teh black bars actually are covering up part of the picture. Also, Rodriguez edited the whole movie twice already (once for his video demo and once when Columbia decided to put it on 35mm) and it sounds like it took a lot of effort.

Anyway, the movie itself: I like it. It doesn't feel like a $7,000 movie. I think the acting feels better than it really is because it's in a foreign language. I can understand some of the Spanish (the benefit of a San Diego upbringing!), but I always find that when you're not really interacting with the language the actors are using, you're more willing to suspend disbelief and assume a good performance. It's even more true if you turn off the subtitles, although it's a little more confusing.

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