Academic journal article Post Script

Robert Rodriguez's Magical Corridos: The El Mariachi Series and Latinos on Film

Academic journal article Post Script

Robert Rodriguez's Magical Corridos: The El Mariachi Series and Latinos on Film

Article excerpt

Along with directors such as Martin Scorsese, John Woo, and close friend Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez is a director that makes such signature films that he must be mentioned in any discussion of his movies. His distinctive aesthetic includes rapid cuts, hip dialogue, and lots of over-the-top action. But Rodriguez differs from these directors in his Latino heritage and the attention he pays to Latino subjects and culture in many of his films. In 2007, the influential magazine Hollywood Reporter ranked Rodriguez number three in its "Latino Power 50," a ranking of the most influential Latinos in Hollywood. The rankings considered filmmakers' representations of Latinos as an important part of the criteria for selection. Rodriguez is, as Hollywood Reporter notes, "one of the few homegrown Latino directors whose name appears above film titles," and is the rare director of any ethnic background that also writes, produces, shoots, edits, and scores most of his own films in his own home studio. Furthermore, in late 2013 he launched a television network, El Rey, an English-language channel directed towards a "millennial" Latino audience. For a Latino director with such exposure and control, the way he portrays Latinos becomes even more significant.

Rodriguez came to prominence in 1993 after the wide release of his film El Mariachi; he also gained semi-mythic status in the film community after making the film for a mere $7000. He continued the series in 1995 with Desperado and rounded out the trilogy with 2003's Once Upon a Time in Mexico. As Charles Ramirez Berg points out, the El Mariachi series is part of the "warrior adventure genre" of films, but Rodriguez's films also play against the genre in important ways. The hero of the series is Mexican, and since "any hero presents a locus for viewer identification and empathy," audiences worldwide have been exposed to a Mexican action hero arguably devoid of stereotypes (234).

Rodriguez draws on strands of Latino culture including magical realism and elements of corridos--traditional Mexican folk ballads--to move his hero into a mythic realm. Magical realism has figured prominently in the literary works of such Latino and Latin American authors as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and it plays a significant role throughout the El Mariachi trilogy. Rosa-Linda Fregoso notes that "surreal segments strategically inserted within cinematic realism produce a multivalence of effects" (107). The effects Rodriguez creates by imbuing his realistic world with supernatural and superhuman elements underscore the mythic nature of his undertaking. Corridos are most commonly situated in the borderland (as magical realism as a literary mode often is), and as Americo Paredes shows in his classic "With His Pistol in His Hand": A Border Ballad and Its Hero, corridos usually center on a Mexican or Mexican American hero in conflict with Anglo-American hegemony. The narrative arc of the El Mariachi series contains such prevalent elements of corridos that they cannot be ignored. As Jose Limon notes, "the corrido is an aestheticized and eroticized figure of strong, attractive masculinity confronting other men with the phallic power of his pistol in his hand" (105). Music is a crucial part of Rodriguez's narrative, and just as he does with film genre, he tweaks the traditional corrido paradigm in revealing ways. By pairing components of both magical realism and corridos, Rodriguez places his Latino subjects in a mythic, even epic Mexico, particularly the titular character El Mariachi. This essay will thus examine the three films of the El Mariachi series to show how Rodriguez draws on elements of magical realism and corridos to create empowering Latino characters.

EL MARIACHI

The series begins with 1992's El Mariachi. The film stars Carlos Gallardo as the titular character and has become a legend in its own right. Shot for a pittance relative to typical Hollywood budgets, the film won the Audience Award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and went on to become the first Spanish-language film released by Columbia Pictures. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.