Art - Τέχνη / Σινεμά ο Παράδεισος / Robert Rodriguez

The Myth of Robert Rodriguez By Trevor Thompson


Είμαι φανατική, είμαι θαυμάστρια και απορώ πως δεν έχω γράψει ακόμα κάτι σχετικό γι’αυτόν, αλλά κάποια στιγμή θα το κάνω κι αυτό. Προς τον παρόν βρήκα αυτό το άρθρο στο internet από τον Trevor Thompson όπου γράφει την δική του γνώμη για τον Robert Rodriguez και τις εντυπώσεις που του έδωσε μέσα από τις ταινίες του.

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The Myth of Robert Rodriguez

By Trevor Thompson, Apr 6, 2005

Robert Rodriguez is heralded as one of the best directors in Hollywood, but are his movies actually any good? 

The first time I saw Robert Rodriguez in person, I didn’t recognize him. At first, owing to the big black cowboy hat on his head, I thought he was my dad. No one else I knew had the balls to wear a cowboy hat in New York City, especially in front of a crowd like that, full of Hollywood heavies, stars, producers, photographers, and wannabe cool people like me who received an invitation to the New York premiere of Once Upon a Time in Mexico not because anybody wanted me there, but because I happened to know someone who worked for Miramax. As such, I was hidden in the very front row of the theater, pressed like a booger against the right wall.

Rodriguez was standing before the screen, microphone in hand, big and loose and in his ever-present cowboy hat, thanking us all for attending and relating what a pleasure it had been to make this movie.

I leaned over to my friend Caroline and whispered, “Who’s that dork?”

“Robert Rodriguez, the director,” she whispered back. A moment later she added, “He’s amazing.”

I knew I was supposed to be impressed. I’d read a little bit about him before coming to the premiere, about his humble beginnings in a small Texas town with the low budget movie, El Mariachi, and his subsequent meteoric rise to his present status as one of the hottest directors in Hollywood. I knew that he was a pioneer of digital filmmaking and scorned celluloid as an ancient, clumsy technology. He often wrote, directed, edited and scored his own movies. Actors adored him. Quentin Tarantino was his buddy. I’d watched El Mariachi in my high school Spanish class and Desperado I’d seen about 20 times on cable. The final installment in his Latin action trilogy, Once Upon a Time in Mexico was an event I’d been looking forward to for a long time — mainly because Salma Hayek looked so luscious on the posters.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t very good. There were moments, of course, and much of it was visually exciting. But the story was full of holes, the flashback sequences were clumsy, the character’s motivations were flimsy, and the action sequences seemed tired and repetitive. Something was wrong with the pacing of the movie. One of the biggest problems was his habit of having his characters enter into indulgent, tangential monologues about ridiculous subjects and punctuate them with a gunshot or an explosion. It worked in Pulp Fiction, but it wasn’t working in Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

Confused about what made people praise Rodriguez, I went back to a few of his other movies. I rented El Mariachi, Desperado, and From Dusk Till Dawn. Surprise, surprise . . . all of the elements I found annoying in his latest movie were in those movies as well. Case and point: the scene from Desperado when Quentin Tarantino’s character spends about seven minutes relating a barroom joke while the audience is waiting for someone to get shot, a scene so drawn out and incongruous with the fast and bloody pacing of the rest of the film that watching it creates the same agitation as having someone drag their fingernails across a chalkboard.

Does everybody know that Rodriguez was responsible for the lucrative Spy Kids franchise? At first I failed to see the relation between bloody action movies and children’s trilogy, but after watching 15 minutes of Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, I figured it out. Visually arresting, but totally corny. I was confused: I had seen most of his work to date, but I was far from impressed, far from being a believer in the myth of Robert Rodriguez.

I do not use the word “myth” lightly. The story of Rodriguez’s career is easily as impressive as any of the work he has produced, if not more so. It is a David and Goliath story — the story of how a nobody college dropout who was rejected from film school took over Hollywood and made it play by his rules.

In the early 1990s, after being rejected by the University of Austin’s film school, young Robert Rodriguez decided he was going to make a Latin action movie in his hometown in Texas. The problem was, he didn’t have any money. To raise the necessary funds for the film, he enrolled in an experimental cholesterol drug study program for several weeks, emerging with $7,000 and a script for a movie called El Mariachi. Because of his limited budget, Rodriguez decided to avoid the expense of making a film print (usually a minimum of $20,000) and made a video print with the intention of sending it directly to the Mexican Home Video Market. Instead, after he hawked it around to a few studios, Columbia Pictures picked up the distribution rights — the first time in history a major studio had picked up a film from videotape. After submitting it to numerous festivals around the world (where it won many awards), Columbia released it worldwide, making El Mariachi the first low-budget film ever to be released worldwide and the first American film to be released in Spanish. As if that weren’t enough, Columbia signed Rodriguez to a two-year writing and directing deal.

Thus we see the genesis of the mythological movie underdog known as Robert Rodriguez. From nothing he created something. With no money, no contacts, and no crew, he made a movie that won international attention and paved the way for countless independent filmmakers behind him. That is his shtick: by disdaining traditional film and using new technology (first video and later digital) he is able to make low-budget action movies that look like big-budget Hollywood films. The first movie he made under his contract with Columbia was Desperado, essentially a remake of El Mariachi. He did it for only $7 million and it came out looking like a $50-million dollar movie — or more like $100-million today.

By the time Desperado was released in 1995, studios were clamoring to get Rodriguez onboard for their projects. But the most important thing to Rodriguez was keeping his freedom. He turned down Superman Lives, The Wild Wild West, X-Men, The Mask of Zorro and countless other projects because he thought he’d relinquish all his control to the suits — or in his words, he’d be forced to “roll up his sleeves and sell burgers.” Instead, he went back to the drawing board and came up with Spy Kids, an absolute long-shot he thought didn’t have a chance at success. Little did he know. The only reason Spy Kids was green-lit, however, was not because Miramax was totally confident it would be a hit, but because the risk was small: they knew Rodriguez could make it on a much tighter budget than any other director. “That’s the key,” says Rodriguez. “Don’t give me any money, don’t give me any people, but give me freedom and I’ll give you a movie that looks gigantic.”

The myth grows with his latest movie, Sin City, which opened last weekend. Sin City was originally a noir-comic by Frank Miller. Rodriguez, a rabid fan of the comic since 1992, was so intent on keeping the project out of the meddling hands of studio execs that he decided to make Miller a co-director. When Rodriguez was told having more than one director was against the rules of the Directors Guild of America, he just shrugged and quit. He was thinking of bringing Quentin Tarantino on as a third director, anyway. The consequences of quitting the DGA? Rodriguez doesn’t seem too worried. “I can’t do a studio movie that’s developed by a studio now,” he says, “but that just means I should be doing my own material.”

Based on his earlier movies, I wasn’t so sure I agreed with him. As interesting as it is to see somebody make something from nothing, it tempers the enthusiasm when that something is mediocre. But Sin City made me change my tune. I went into the theater with low expectations, looking for the same flaws I noticed in his previous projects, expecting to be awed visually but bored mentally — and instead I was blown away. Finally, Rodriguez lives up to his reputation. This movie has it all: interesting stories, incredible characters, good pacing, and a visual style like none I’ve ever seen before. Rodriguez, as was his goal, literally turned a movie into a comic.

And he turned me into a believer.

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The Myth of Robert Rodriguez.

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