Monday, March 16, 2009

Che (part one)

Che, Steven Soderbergh's history on the revolutionary Che Guevara runs nearly five hours long. It's actually divided into two separate parts with part one is dubbed The Argentine. Not wanting to sit on a not so comfortable seat at the Circle for five hours on a work night--opted to watch part one only.

I enjoyed Che--part one. I'm not sure why there is even the need for part two although I haven't the foggiest what material it covers in Che's life. Part one exists on two fronts--Guevara's involvement in the Cuban revolution in the late 1950s and his visit to New York a few years later to address the United Nations on behalf of Cuba. The film flips back and forth between the two times in Che's life. One's in color, the other black and white.

I absolutely loved the Cuban revolution storyline. It's the strength of the film as it perfectly captures the gritty struggle by this small band of fighters, farmers and radicals as they make their way towards Havana encountering Bautista's military along the way. Lush, tropical greenery surrounds them and it's a stunning, beautiful backdrop. If you are going to engage in armed rebellion--you might as well do it in a place this gorgeous. Has to help with the morale.

I was less interested in the jump forward portion of Che in New York. To switch up the color palette, Soderbergh shoots these scenes in super grainy black and white (literally--he's also the DP under an alias). Soderbergh has put these two sections of Che's life side by side for a reason--he wants to show us the revolutionary with a gun in his hand juxtaposed with the statesman with words as his weapon. I found the Cuban revolution stuff more interesting, thought out and effective. Benecio Del Toro gets to deliver more layers as Che with the dual story lines and he does deliver a fine performance--I would have happily traded these scenes for more Cuban revolution.

Aside from the ubiquitous t-shirt, I knew very little about Che Guevara. Che--part one (and maybe part two)--changes that somewhat for me. Had this only been about the Cuban revolution Che--part one might have made my top ten for last year, that's how strong that portion of Che is. Too bad it had a dual storyline to drag down the superior story.

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