The Motorcycle Diaries
5/5Diarios de Motocicleta SHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Walter Salles
scr Jose Rivera
with Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna, Mia Maestro, Jorge Chiarella, Gustavo Bueno, Jackelyn Vasquez, Mercedes Moran, Jean-Pierre Noher, Antonella Costa, Susana Lanteri, Brandon Cruz, Alberto Granado
release Argentina 29.Jul.04, UK 27.Aug.04, US 24.Sep.04
04/Argentina 2h05

In the jungle: Bernal and de la Serna.

24th Shadows Awards
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Diarios de Motocicleta This is much more than an epic road movie; it's also an introspective biography and an examination of a socio-political situation that's rarely discussed. It's also thoroughly entertaining and deeply moving--a vital historical document with something important to say.

Alberto and Ernesto (De la Serna and Bernal), ages 29 and 23, are Buenos Aires medical students who have one last blow-out before life gets serious, ambitiously riding their motorcycle from Argentina to Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela to see the continent they call home but know nothing about. Along the way they have adventures that are hilarious and nerve-wracking--and also eye-opening. By the time they reach Caracas their worlds have changed; the life-loving Alberto might be ready to settle down, while the more introspective Ernesto sets his sights on something larger than medicine. Ernesto is, of course, better known as Che Guevara.

Salles films this in a documentary style that captures both the intense internal conflicts and the scenic grandeur of Latin America. Eric Gautier's cinematography has a gritty authenticity that catches images and textures (and smells), dwelling in the expressive, worn faces of people along the road. Meanwhile, Rivera's screenplay is both sensitive and rollicking, grabbing hold of life's joys and injustices. What this does is root the story solidly in the culture, which is vitally important if we're to understand Guevara's internal journey.

It also helps that Salles draws another profound performance from Bernal, who fully inhabits Guevara as just another 23-year-old adventurer who along the road discovers his soul. Some of this might be slightly heavy-handed (such as a symbolic climax on the Amazon), but it's never overplayed by cast or crew, so it retains the power of authenticity. And Bernal's chemistry with De la Serna is revealing, edgy and often hilarious.

These are such real young men that we can't take our eyes off the screen, and the people they encounter along the way all contribute eloquently to their story. There's not a false note in this film, which elegantly draws out the truth of South America's history through a story and characters that are gripping and involving on their own. Essential!

cert 15 adult themes, language, some grisliness 14.Jun.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall