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|Che: The Argentine
|aka Che: Part One
dir Steven Soderbergh
scr Peter Buchman
with Benicio Del Toro, Demián Bichir, Rodrigo Santoro, Julia Ormond, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Edgar Ramírez, Victor Rasuk, Unax Ugalde, Santiago Cabrera, Roberto Urbina, Alfredo De Quesada, Aurelio Lima
release US Oct.08 nyff, UK 2.Jan.09
Viva la revolucion: Del Toro and Cabrera
CANNES FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (2004)
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Based on Ernesto "Che" Guevara's memoir Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War, this film has a striking structure and powerful performances that bring the story to life and add provocative modern-day parallels.
In the mid-1950s, Che (Del Toro) is a doctor in Mexico City who meets the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul (Bichir and Santoro), and joins their cause to free Cuba from the US-supported dictator Batista. Their journey by boat and then foot through the jungle is harrowing, but they pick up soldiers along the way, and Che is transformed into a general in the process. Through a series of skirmishes, their rag-tag group unites the rebels and, in January 1959, they take power. Che is 30 years old.
This story is crosscut with events of 1964, recreated in grainy black and white, when Guevara was interviewed in New York by a journalist (Ormond) and spoke to the UN. The juxtaposition of these two story strands is what raises this film into something truly special, as it brings out much deeper issues than American paranoia at the height of the Cold War. This film isn't trying to justify communism; it's about the power of passion, and how a desire to do the right thing can overcome even an enemy that outnumbers you exponentially.
Soderbergh shoots this with an expert eye, catching tiny details in both strands that give insight into the man and his situation. And Del Toro's performance is remarkably intense, mainly because he grounds Guevara in reality as an asthmatic doctor who's pulled into events much larger than he is, and rises to the occasion. In his eyes we can see the fire of revolution; we understand that he is trying to do something good for the people of Cuba (he teaches his soldiers to read and write) and challenge the world to snap out of its narrow-minded self-interest.
There's also a clear sense that the cast and crew are trying to demythologise the man, even as they acknowledge the facts that make him so iconic. His interaction with his fellow guerrillas is spiky and fascinating, and makes up for the film's otherwise rather cold tone. When his group of soldiers make their attack on one city, the film turns into a wild Western gunfight that's low-key and earthy. And when he stands up at the UN and defends his five reasonable demands for Cuban sovereignty, we realise that the world is still a profoundly unfair place.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
|Billy, San Francisco: "Che is my hero, and this movie is the best!" (21.Jan.09)
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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