Che: parts one and two (2008)

Steven Soderbergh's four and a half hour film Che is in every sense of the word an epic. However, it's not without its faults.

Biopics are a strange breed and most of them tend to follow the same bland outline. Starting from upbringing (usually when the subject is a child), then goes on to the subjects initial renown or success, their fall from grace, and then their climb back to the top resulting in either death or success (for examples of this watch Ray/Walk the Line , Milk, Ali, Man on the Moon, Private Parts... and so on and so forth ad nauseum). Not to say that the tried and true formula is always boring or that a biopic can't also be a well made piece of film-making (Control), it's just more times than not Hollywood churns out these "paint by numbers" bio films banking on their subjects popularity to make a good profit and maybe an Oscar nod or two.
Now enter Che, by the looks of it Che would seem to break the formula with its long running time and one could assume that you would walk out of a close to five hour picture with a richer knowledge of Che Guevara. I can't say i walked out knowing more than i already knew about the man, but this wasn't that kind of film either. It's an honest portrait of the man, naturally paced and beautifully shot.

When looking at the two parts separately Che: Part One - The Argentine is surprisingly superior to Part Two - Guerrilla. The first film has Soderbergh's usual directorial quirks (odd music montages, jump cuts to future or past events, multiple story-lines) all over it while the second is a quiet, linear, slow paced retelling of events.
The first part focuses on the Cuban revolution inter-spliced with a recreation of Che's visit to the U.N. in 1964.
The second is about Che's failed attempt to spread the revolution in Bolivia. Obviously the content in the second part is harder to watch because it is essentially watching a great man fail for two hours but that's not what made it inferior to the first part.
For one, Guerrilla feels painfully drawn out. Not much happens as the film lurches towards the inevitable conclusion (which is probably the best part of Guerrilla). Stylistically the film feels much different than the first forcing the viewer to switch gears and watch a much more subtle film. Still, Guerrilla has its own haunting beauty to it that makes it a fine counterpart.
My biggest qualm with the films is the content that's on display... or the lack thereof. I personally wanted to see a dramatization of the revolution toppling Bastilla's government but the first film ends as Che is about to enter Havana and then the second begins 10 years later as Che is preparing to leave for Bolivia. Also there is virtually nothing about the man before the revolution, but i guess we have Motorcylcle Diaries for that.

All in all, a very impressive epic that is haunting and superbly delivered. Benicio deserves an Oscar for his work here, he becomes Che.
Keep your eyes open for an odd Matt Damon cameo (he speaks in Spanish the whole time... playing a Bolivian).
Strange how nowadays Che's face is sold on t-shirts and mugs to generate money for social structures he spent his life trying to topple. huh.
Great watch, highly recommend - especially the first film.

1 comment:

La Sporgenza said...

One of these photos seems out of place, but I can't figure out which one.