Che: Part One (15)

Film

War films

che_5.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5
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Time Out says

Wed Jan 7 2009

The first thing to say about this monumental achievement from the American director Steven Soderbergh is that you should see it. The second is that you should try to see both parts in one go (you can do so on New Year’s Day, or once Part Two is released on February 20); only then do the true audacity and intelligence and the sheer formal elegance of the work become apparent.

See just Part One and it may feel like an odd, faintly flat biopic; watch it all and you see Soderbergh isn’t even out to make a biopic in any conventional sense of the term.
For one thing, of course, he didn’t need to tread the path of traditional portraiture, as Walter Salles’s‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ has already dealt with how an Argentinian medic’s encounters with suffering and injustice transformed his political awareness. Moreover, while Ernesto Guevara (Benicio Del Toro) is undoubtedly at the centre of Soderbergh’s diptych, he’s not the main focus of interest, in that this is a film about the process of revolutionary struggle.
Part One – spanning from 1955, when Guevara first met Fidel Castro (Demián Bichir) in Mexico City, to 1964, when he visited New York to address the United Nations assembly – mainly chronicles the guerilla campaign fought by a tiny, initially ragged band of rebels against the army supporting the Cuban dictator Batista.

Flashing backwards and forwards in time, it frames the guerrillas’ slow but still miraculous progress, from the Sierra Maestra to a finally decisive victory in Santa Clara, within a discussion (based on Guevara’s speeches and writings) of revolutionary strategy, in terms of both practice and  theory. During this time the pragmatic strategist Che becomes ever more crucial to Castro. But at the same time, he’s just one component in a campaign dependent on the growing support of Cuba’s peasant population.

If Part One ends on an unexpectedly cool note, given the rebels’ victory, that’s not because Soderbergh has failed to provide a feelgood celebration of heroic triumph, but because it’s the midpoint of a careful consideration of Guevara’s achievements. Part Two finds him arriving incognito in Bolivia in 1966, in the hope of taking, with the help of a few Cuban comrades, the revolution to impoverished, frightened Indian farmers none too happy about foreigners stirring up the authorities against them. The infighting among the left negotiated by Castro in Cuba is more problematic in Bolivia; the CIA is sniffing around; Guevara, still plagued by asthma, is older; and where Cuba ended in glory, Bolivia brings failure and death.

In short,  Part Two stands in dramatic contrast to its predecessor, and where Part One boasts a fragmented, garrulous narrative with different time frames shot in ’Scope in different colours and black and white, the Bolivian episode is linear, quieter, shot in muted, almost monochrome greens, greys and blues, framed in a less expansive, more claustrophobic ratio. (Like the performances and the staging of action sequences, the camerawork – Soderbergh himself shooting with the new, high-def RED camera – is superb throughout.) This formal audacity is matched by an eschewal of traditional heroics; Soderbergh is interested in what it entails to fight for revolutionary ideals: not just courage, cunning, expertise, loyalty, but the hardships, sacrifices… and the cost of mistakes. It’s not a Hollywood-style movie – it demands patience and proper attention – but it’s a great movie, and rewards magnificently.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Thu Jan 1, 2009

Duration:

126 mins

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usman khawaja

there is no doubt that this will haunt you for years whether you love or hate this sprawling biopic epic of a very complex and noble spirit who might be controversial but will never be regarded as anythinhg but a great reformer and revolutionary with a vision that most humanity only dreams about yet this man took to actually define it in a practical manner and suceeded as well because death in itself is not a failure but a redemption whereas the ideals that he sparked are moulding and changing the globe today. the first part sees benicio del toro arrive on a boat from mexico to cuba with 80 other revolutionaries who then engage in a long drawn military campaign finally toppling batista regime and making cuba the only country in america which is free of american intervention . this part is fascinating where you see che become comandante from a foreign intruder as he metes out blind justice to both the opressors and the revolutionaries who step out of line . the character and principles of the man are dramatically established without melodrama or sermons to the point you subconciously start to respect him in an amazing manner with a tour de force act by benicio . he is a stalwart and he plays the stalwart with a laconic restraint and the asthmatic episodes make him look so vulnerable and yet endearing that you almost adore the journey through cuban forests with ragtag rebels in ragged uniforms and a lot of physical suffering . there are lot of violent scenes and a brilliant street battle staged for the capture of the crucial city of santa clara which is technically a masterpiece to execute and the action is immaculate . the spirit of the ordinary cubans is demonstrated by minor characters in subtle sophistication where two teen age brothers refuse to leave despite being rejected for guerilla service . in the back of your mind you know they will be labelled as terrorists today and that makes you chuckle as they are absolutely moral and heroic in their courage fighting a corrupt unjust regime . i was rather surprised by the visit of che to united nations and the tongue in cheek way he trashes the opposition . here che becomes a fair ,adorable ,iconic intellectual and a dashing soldier and a victorious military hero while evoking some real emotion in both your concious and subconcious . benicio has acted everyone off the screen with his total transformation into the very skin of the character as you start to feel what he is thinking in a psychic act where he penetrates inside your head . this is not traditional entertainment but historically accurate depiction without heroic propaganda or glory of war but rather makes it look as the ugly horror it is but describes it as the ony choice to change when a popular uprising is crushed by a totatilitarian regime and i speculate that imam khomenei followed the same example decades later in iran to get rid of the evil shah . the relationship he develops with his wife here is rather full of humour and there are enough light hearted moments to make you smile in a grim journey through cuba juxtaposed with a witty television interview footage mixed with monochrome and colour images which give it a gritty real look . a cherished classic creating castros cuba with an argentine dreamer

usman khawaja

there is no doubt that this will haunt you for years whether you love or hate this sprawling biopic epic of a very complex and noble spirit who might be controversial but will never be regarded as anythinhg but a great reformer and revolutionary with a vision that most humanity only dreams about yet this man took to actually define it in a practical manner and suceeded as well because death in itself is not a failure but a redemption whereas the ideals that he sparked are moulding and changing the globe today. the first part sees benicio del toro arrive on a boat from mexico to cuba with 80 other revolutionaries who then engage in a long drawn military campaign finally toppling batista regime and making cuba the only country in america which is free of american intervention . this part is fascinating where you see che become comandante from a foreign intruder as he metes out blind justice to both the opressors and the revolutionaries who step out of line . the character and principles of the man are dramatically established without melodrama or sermons to the point you subconciously start to respect him in an amazing manner with a tour de force act by benicio . he is a stalwart and he plays the stalwart with a laconic restraint and the asthmatic episodes make him look so vulnerable and yet endearing that you almost adore the journey through cuban forests with ragtag rebels in ragged uniforms and a lot of physical suffering . there are lot of violent scenes and a brilliant street battle staged for the capture of the crucial city of santa clara which is technically a masterpiece to execute and the action is immaculate . the spirit of the ordinary cubans is demonstrated by minor characters in subtle sophistication where two teen age brothers refuse to leave despite being rejected for guerilla service . in the back of your mind you know they will be labelled as terrorists today and that makes you chuckle as they are absolutely moral and heroic in their courage fighting a corrupt unjust regime . i was rather surprised by the visit of che to united nations and the tongue in cheek way he trashes the opposition . here che becomes a fair ,adorable ,iconic intellectual and a dashing soldier and a victorious military hero while evoking some real emotion in both your concious and subconcious . benicio has acted everyone off the screen with his total transformation into the very skin of the character as you start to feel what he is thinking in a psychic act where he penetrates inside your head . this is not traditional entertainment but historically accurate depiction without heroic propaganda or glory of war but rather makes it look as the ugly horror it is but describes it as the ony choice to change when a popular uprising is crushed by a totatilitarian regime and i speculate that imam khomenei followed the same example decades later in iran to get rid of the evil shah . the relationship he develops with his wife here is rather full of humour and there are enough light hearted moments to make you smile in a grim journey through cuba juxtaposed with a witty television interview footage mixed with monochrome and colour images which give it a gritty real look . a cherished classic creating castros cuba with an argentine dreamer

barfordian

Wonderful film-thanks to Cambridge Picture house- it is possible to see theses 'alternative' films. Long may such cinemas continue!!

barfordian

Wonderful film-thanks to Cambridge Picture house- it is possible to see theses 'alternative' films. Long may such cinemas continue!!

Bea

Great film. Del Toro gives the performance of his life. Why he wasn't nominated today for Best Actor is beyond me, and demonstrates how meaningless the prize has become.

Bea

Great film. Del Toro gives the performance of his life. Why he wasn't nominated today for Best Actor is beyond me, and demonstrates how meaningless the prize has become.