Cinema - The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Two of the themes most commonly explored in Westerns are brought together in Tommy Lee Jones’ contemporary cowboy film, the critically acclaimed ‘Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.’ One is friendship, the other, revenge. It is set on the Tex-Mex border in an uncompromisingly tough little town, where Jones’ character, Pete Perkins, works on a small-scale cattle ranch with his illegal immigrant buddy Estrada (played by Julio Cesar Cedillo). Estrada is shot by a panicky border guard (the brutal, sullen Mike Norton, played by Barry Pepper), who buries him in a shallow grave. The killing is discovered, and Estrada is given a proper funeral, but the local sheriff decides not to prosecute his employee. So Perkins decides to take matters into his own hands. He kidnaps Norton, makes him dig up the man he has killed, and the three of them embark on a horseback journey back to Estrada’s home-town, for a third burial.

On the way, with the body badly decomposing, they encounter a number of surreal obstacles and revelations which make the journey a steep learning curve for both of them. Jones, making his directorial debut, is blessed with a superb non-sequential script by Guillermo Arriaga, of 21 Grams and Amores Perros fame. The film won two awards at the latest edition of the Cannes Film Festival, best actor for Jones, best screenwriter for Arriaga. It is beautifully shot, and, mercifully, manages to find a rich vein of humour throughout. Sam Peckinpah, you feel, would have been proud. DL

A buddy movie with a difference: one of them is dead
Gardner Arts Centre
When? 8pm
How Much? £5/£4
Gardner Arts Centre
(t) 01273 685861
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