Director Profile: Robert Rodriguez

Category: Director Profiles
Last article published: 2 June 2016
This is the 9th post under this label

Being one of a collection of movie directors whose work I particularly like and why.

Robert Rodriguez
Best known for: El Mariachi (1992), Desperado (1995), From Dusk Til Dawn (1996), The Faculty (1998), Spy Kids (2001), Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003), Sin City (2005), Planet Terror (2007), Machete (2010), Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
Most emblematic: Desperado
Widely considered the best: Sin City
Most underrated: The Faculty
Personal favorite: Desperado
First one I ever saw: From Dusk Til Dawn. In theaters: From Dusk Til Dawn

Favorite actors: Antonio Banderas, Jessica Alba, Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin
Recurring themes and tropes: Mexican characters and locations. Tribute to his Hispanic heritage. Exploitation tropes. Shorts and fake trailers. Anti-heroes.
Elements of style: Cutting inside a shot. Stylized (yet realistic) action. Greenscreen work. Spanish guitar soundtracks. Colored overtones.
Reputation: Making small budgets look like big budgets. One-man film crew. Making movies for his kids (despite grumbling from fans). Very free of his tricks of the trade to help young film makers get their movies made. Loyal to friends (quit Directors' Guild for Frank Miller, wrote a score for Tarantino for a buck, giving Danny Trejo the role of his life).
Appreciation: It really begins with the El Mariachi DVD package. Here was a movie made for some 7000 dollars that was more exciting than most action flicks made for a million. The DVD extras told the epic tale of how this was achieved and included such insanity as editing with a VCR, recording dialog on a tape recorder just after a shot while people seemed to remember how they said a line, cutting away from faces when that dialog didn't match, and more. I was wowed. Not only had Rodriguez made a fun action movie on shoestring, but he'd made it a creative force rather than a limit. I was on the hook for most of his filmography.

And I mean, he likes genre. I like genre. He likes exploitation films. I like exploitation films. He likes to get together with Quentin Tarantino. I like QT's output. But I think my favorite part is that he's a diversity voice. I've seen the white action (anti-)hero too many times to think it interesting. In the same way that blaxploitation films gave African-Americans their own icons which have resonated with audiences of all cultures, Rodriguez has belatedly created the Mexploitation film to do the same. Better yet, he's a maverick film-maker whose exploitation films with a lot more production value than the 'sploitation craze of the 1970s could achieve. The Mariachi. Machete. Even the Spy Kids. These are iconic Latino heroes. As time has gone by, Rodriguez' interests have split from mine. While I was all in for Sin City, in retrospect I don't like the trend of recreating comics shot for shot (which a certain Mr. Snyder ran into the ground), nor do I find effects-heavy kids pictures very interesting. This year's Alita is quite a technical achievement, and I did like it, but manga-inspired stuff leaves me cold. I still respect the craft, but me? I can't wait until he makes Machete in Space.

But how do YOU rate Robert Rodriguez?


Darrin said...

Nice summary and thoughts. I like many of his films. Ruth and I thoroughly enjoyed Alita and are hoping they can finish the trilogy.

Siskoid said...

The way he structures budgets, I bet he can no matter the first film's relative success.


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