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Director Affinity: Robert Rodriguez

Each iconic director must have a distinct style to his credit, a certain something that distinguishes him from the pack. Among the younger set of cherished directors this is easy to spot. Zack Snyder might as well take out a patent on slow and fast motion. Films made by the Wachowski brothers are best viewed after consuming narcotics. Quentin Tarantino has a fascination with sending up cult films and genres.

This Director Affinity is dedicated to a buddy of Tarantino’s and a dedicated schlock auteur extraordinaire. In a typical Hollywood story, Robert Rodriguez developed his fascination with film as a child. He wasn’t the conventional type, and although he went to college he couldn’t make the grades for film school at first. After spending a few years dallying in trivialities, he filmed a $7000 Spanish language film El Mariachi, which went on to win the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992.

That little film was chopped up and marketed in the United States in only eighty eight theaters. It still more than made back its budget, with an overall gross of $2 million. He later completed the trilogy with Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Rodriguez's distinctiveness could be seen in the low-budget picture. The director typically wears multiple hats for his features including cinematographer, editor and even composer. In order to get the most effect for his budget, he utilizes many erratic camera tricks to add both tension and humor to action sequences.




He is often compared to Tarantino, his friend and frequent collaborator. The two most recently worked together in 2007 on Grindhouse, a double feature in the order of well, grindhouse films. Critics were fairly split on whose portion was best, though Rodriguez was slightly favored for his entry Planet Terror. The movie starred Rose McGowan as a maimed go-go dancer who wields a machine gun on her stump.

But you could say Rodriguez has a softer side. Since beginning his directorial career in 1993, Rodriguez has sat in the director’s chair twelve times. In nearly half of those instances he was making a children’s film. Spy Kids was the first in 2001. It made over $100 million and spawned two successful sequels Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams and Spy Kids 3D: Game Over. He collaborated with his young son to create The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl and later made the fantasy Shorts.

Unlike some of his peers, Rodriguez isn’t some sort of blockbuster director. His most successful films have been his kid flicks. But his most vocal fans wish he would cut down on the sequels to family stock and follow up Sin City, his most generally appealing movie. Rodriguez was just the man to bring Frank Miller’s comic book to life. But that was more than five years ago.




Sin City was a visual stunner and ranks among my favorite niche adaptations. Rodriguez created something that moved like a video game, was voiced over like an old crime story or film noir and had only a dash of color. He literally gave each character just a touch: red lips, yellow skin, etc ... among a black and white backdrop.

He also made a horror film with a cult-like following with From Dusk Till Dawn in 1996. Rodriguez shows a certain fondness for this genre, putting his own comedic and seductive spin on it. Long before the current vampire craze, he placed two deviant robbers on the lam in a strip club full of the undead. Cheesy terror ensued.




Two years later, Rodriguez directed The Faculty, a more generic feature that fit with the teen movie craze of the moment. His newest picture features one of his oft-used actors, Danny Trejo. Trejo, a second cousin of Rodriguez, will next headline Machete, a mexploitation film about a man on a killing spree. It happens to be an expansion of one of the most remembered fake trailers in Grindhouse.

Robert Rodriguez is a motion picture enthusiast who knows how to work with a tight budget. He is in love with multiple aspects of his craft and encourages other hopeful filmmakers to pursue their dreams, with or without financial backing. Although he is not making the kind of bank of big name guys, his films are completely his own, with markings that are identifiable and beloved by his band of loyal fans. He textbook stylings will explode on screen in Machete, opening in theaters Friday.


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