Monday, 3 May 2010

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Anyone who treats January Jones like a piece of meat warrants being beaten up, dragged through a river behind a horse, bitten by a rattlesnake and getting his nose busted by a coffee-pot. So border patrolman Mike Norton gets what he deserves, for that and shooting an innocent Mexican. OK, so Estrada was in America illegally, but he was a good cowboy and gave Pete Perkins his horse, which in West Texas is just about the greatest thing one man can do for another, probably.
   Tommy Lee Jones directed this and plays Perkins with the same world-weariness that defined his sheriff in ‘No Country For Old Men’. Along with the Stetson, he wears that attitude very well. Obsession with fulfilling Estrada’s wish should he die first drives Perkins on in search of his friend’s final resting place. But does it actually exist? And is the woman in the photo really Estrada’s wife?
   There are two especially great sequences; one when they meet a blind man living alone, and another when Perkins tries to make his dead friend’s hair look a little better.
   This is a fine film, imbued with tragedy and irony. It travels from small-town American life to the rugged beauty of a wilderness where answers and possibly even redemption might be found.

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