THERE'S AN OLD Clash of the Titans children's lunch box that pops up in Robert Rodriguez's third "El Mariachi" picture (on DVD Jan. 20), used to transport $10,000 between rogue CIA agent Johnny Depp and informant Cheech Marin. On his commentary track, Rodriguez explains how he spotted the prop while writing the script, then never got around to changing it to something more ominous. On its surface, of course, Mexico is a clash between Depp and Antonio Banderas, but Rodriguez's commentary and various featurettes on this single-disc package reveal how much the project is a clash between film and digital video.
"The only reason you would shoot film is for nostalgia value," he declares. George Lucas showed him some early footage from The Phantom Menace shot on new 24-frames-per-second, high-definition-format DV cameras, and there was no going back. Mexico was his first such project, a seven-week experiment in shooting on the fly, as fast as possible, with polymath Rodriguez operating his own cameras. "We can't keep track of the setups," he addsmeaning that there are takes within takes with the lens always open. (Since then, he also shot the second two Spy Kids movies in the same "fast, cheap, and in control" manner.)
Various featurettes reveal Rodriguez's fantasy-land Austin, Texas, home/ work compound, where he edits, scores, and mixes his digital stew (saving mucho dinero and gaining maximum freedom)and even cooks! There's a 10-minute cooking lesson among the disc's extras, which ought to be inspiration to film geeks everywhere to stop subsisting entirely on Top Ramen.
As Rodriguez freely admits, Mexico doesn't make lot of sense, but the thing moves, and it's a lot of fun for that reason. The actors claim to love his ultrafast methodologyDepp only spent eight days on set, creating his second great comic-villain turn of 2003, after Pirates of the Caribbeanseeming to bear out Rodriguez's contention that costly, time-intensive 35mm film has one foot in the grave.
ALSO OUT ON Jan. 20, Lisa Kudrow deserves better than Marci X; Kevin Costner supplies a commentary on the two-disc Open Range; the Oscar-nominated documentary Spellbound gets a second chance to charm viewers; and Cabin Fever will be a favorite gross-out rental for teens. MGM is putting out a "Soul Cinema" series featuring Foxy Brown and Blacula; the studio is also packaging various Sidney Poitier titles.