- El Mariachi
name = El Mariachi
caption = Spanish-language poster
producer = Robert Rodriguez
writer = Robert Rodriguez
starring = Carlos Gallardo
cinematography = Robert Rodriguez
editing = Robert Rodriguez
September 15, 1992
runtime = 81 min.
country = MEX
language = Spanish
budget = $7,000
followed_by = "Desperado"
amg_id = 1:15478
imdb_id = 0104815Infobox movie certificates
Australia = M
Canada (Alberta) =
Canada (BC/SK) = 18A
Canada (Ontario) = R
Canada (Manitoba) = PA
Canada (Maritime) = A
Canada (Quebec) = 16+
Canada (Home Video) = 18A
France = U
Germany = 18
Iceland = 16
Norway = 15
Spain = 18
United_Kingdom = 15
United_States = R
Spanish languagefilm was shot in the northern Mexican border town of Ciudad Acuñawith a mainly amateur cast. The US$ 7,000 production was originally intended for the Hispanichome video market, but executives at Columbia Picturesliked the film so much that they bought the American distribution rights. Columbia eventually spent several times more than the 16 mm film's original budget on 35 mm transfers, promotion, marketing and distribution.
"El Mariachi" tells the story of an out of work musician traveling through Mexico. He dreams of being a big-time
Mariachilike his forefathers before him. He arrives in the small border town of Acuña, hoping to find work in some of the local cantinas and clubs. He is unable to find employment, and decides to check in at a local hotel while he continues his search for work. Meanwhile, a recently escaped convict by the name of Azul is looking for revenge against his former partner Moco (short for "Maurice"). Moco failed to give Azul his cut of their criminal profits, so Azul has been killing Moco's men using a stash of weapons hidden in his guitar case.
A group of hitmen are dispatched to kill Azul, but they mistake El Mariachi for the criminal. El Mariachi kills four of Moco's men in self-defense. As El Mariachi seeks refuge in a bar owned by a woman, Dominó, he falls in love with her. She realizes what has happened to him, and attempts to set things right. In the process, El Mariachi is captured and taken to Moco who correctly identifies him as the wrong man, and sets him free.
Meanwhile, Azul, who has no directions to Moco's home, has taken Dominó with him. Dominó agrees in order to save El Mariachi's life. When they arrive, Azul pretends to take Dominó hostage in order to gain entry. Moco soon realizes that Dominó has fallen for El Mariachi and, in a rage, shoots her and Azul. Suddenly, El Mariachi arrives to find the woman he loves gunned down. Moco then shoots El Mariachi's left hand, rendering him useless as a guitar player. However, overcome with grief and rage, El Mariachi is able to acquire a weapon and kill Moco, taking revenge for Dominó's death.
El Mariachi leaves the town, on Domino's motorbike, with her pitbull, and her pen-opener as token. His dreams to become a mariachi have shattered, and his only protection for his future are the weapons of Azul, which he took along in the guitar-case.
The movie was shot in numerous locations in Acuña,
Coahuila. Rodriguez raised a $7,000 budget, and almost half of it by volunteering for experimental clinical drug testing in Texas. [http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/winter1993/film_for_song.php A FILM FOR A SONG: Robert Rodriguez’s Garage Movie.] ] The opening scenes feature a shootout in a jail. It was the local Acuña jail situated on the outskirts of the town. Also, both the female warden and the male guard were both the real-life warden and guard; Rodriguez thought it convenient because it saved him the cost of hiring actor and renting clothing. The intro bar scene was shot inside the Corona Club, and exterior street scenes were shot on Hildago Street. The shoot out was filmed outside at "Boy's Town" the local red-light district.
Not everyone in Acuña was pleased at first: local journalists Ramiro Gómez and Jesús López Viejo were especially critical of the filming, and to make them stop, Rodriguez gave them small parts in the film. Due to the high body count of the film (i.e. people whose characters had been shot could obviously not return), Rodriguez increasingly had difficulties of finding adult men for playing thugs; for that reason, when the Mariachi meets Moco's gang in the end scene, the gang consists mainly of teenagers.
On the "El Mariachi" DVD, Rodriguez devotes both a DVD commentary and an "Extras" section to explain the tricks of filming a feature-length movie with just $7,000. Rodriguez heavily stresses the need for cost cutting, "because if you start to spend, you cannot stop anymore.""El Mariachi" DVD extras] Therefore, he cut cost at every possible opportunity, such as not using a slate (instead, the actors signaled the number of scene and number of take with their fingers), not using a dolly (he held the camera while being pushed around in a
wheelchair), not using professional lighting (essentially using two 200-watt clip-on desk lamps) and not hiring a film crew (the actors not used in the scenes helped out). Also, Rodriguez believed in filming scenes sequentially in one long take with just one camera: every few seconds, he froze the action, so he could change the camera angle and make the audience believe he had a couple of cameras at the same time."El Mariachi" DVD commentary] Also, bloopers were kept in to save film: noted by Rodriguez were scenes when the Mariachi jumps on a bus, where Rodriguez is visible; the Mariachi bumping his weapon into a street pole; him failing to throw his guitar case on a balcony and Dominó twitching her face when she is already dead. In the end, he used only 24 rolls of film and only spent $7,225 of the $9,000.
Rodriguez also gave insight into his low budget approach to simulate machine gun fire. The problem was that borrowing guns with blanks was expensive, and blanks jam the weapon after being fired once. To solve this, Rodriguez filmed the firing of one blank from different angles, dubbed canned machine gun sounds over it, and had the actors drop bullet shells to the ground to make it look like as if multiple rounds had been shot. In addition, he occasionally used water guns instead of real guns to save money. Rodriguez also describes that the squibs they used in shootout scenes were simply condoms filled with fake blood fixed over weightlifting belts due to the low budget of the film.
Rodriguez also noted the use of improvisation. The turtle which crawls in front of the Mariachi was not planned, but was kept as a good idea. Similarly, there is a scene in which the Mariachi buys a coconut, but Rodriguez forgot to show him paying for the fruit; instead of driving back to the place and shoot additional scenes, Rodriguez decided to build in a voice-over in which the Mariachi asserts that the coconuts were for free. Improvisation was also useful to cover up continuity mistakes: at the end of the movie, the Mariachi has his left hand shot, but Rodriguez forgot to bring the metal glove to cover up the actor's hand; he solved it by packing his hand with black duct tape.
For the scene in which the Mariachi delivers a song in front of Domino, Rodriguez hired a local exterminator. Recording the song with little more than a microphone held next to the musician, Rodriguez pitched the voice to match the voice of Mariachi actor Carlos Gallardo.
The story of "El Mariachis production inspired Rodriguez to write the book '.
"El Mariachi" won multiple international awards, and writer/producer/director Rodriguez went on to gain international fame, being interviewed on such shows as "
Sábado Gigante", and going on to make more Hollywood-backed movies such as " The Faculty" and "Sin City".
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