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Movie Review: Che (Parts 1 & 2)

Alternate Title: The Man, the Myth, the T-shirt

Story: Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is one of those people whose reputation grew even larger after his execution in 1967. Director Steven Soderbergh undertook a Herculean effort to depict this most mythological man in what turns out to be a two part film. Part 1 written by Peter Buchman is 2 hours 9 minutes, and Part 2 written by Mr. Buchman and Benjamin A. van der Veen is 2 hours 8 minutes. The films are in Spanish and English, with English subtitles.

I bit the bullet and decided to see both films at once in its limited run before it is released as two separate movies.

If you are of a certain age (think 45) you will be able to follow the non-linear Part One. It is all about the Revolution in Cuba, Fidel Castro's rise to power and Che's involvement and celebrity. We get to see Che's idealism, heroics, charisma, the battles and reasons that the Cuban uprising was successful. If you are under 45, and not a student of history, you will be scratching your head a bit.

Sadly, we do not get much about Che the man. The movie is a highly romanticized version of Che and will certainly perpetuate the myth (and the sales of the t-shirt). For more on the dark side of the revolution, scroll down to my Soap Box category. That said, Che is beautiful to watch. His idealism is contagious. Part One can be a film that stands alone and has a beginning, middle and end.

Che, Part Two, cannot really be seen without viewing Part one. If Part one confused you, then you will most likely be lost in space during part Two. We meet an older, more tired, less idealistic Che as he slips into Bolivia to help organize their guerilla troops and spread revolution to the peasants as he did in Cuba. The bulk of the film follows the guerillas through Bolivia in a series of confrontations with the army, the American aided special forces and resistant peasants. It is a difficult, ill-fated journey to try to spread a revolution throughout Latin and South America.

I recommend this film to all even if confusion might abound for you. The masterful production values and the acting are worth your time. You also might pick up a point or two if you are looking to start a revolution.

For those in need of some revolutionary gear, check out the Che store : http://www.thechestore.com/

Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvENx90srto

Acting: Benicio Del Toro as Che is wonderful. He has the mannerisms, attitude and even the asthma down perfectly. Bravo. Demián Bichir as Fidel Castro is excellent. The rest of the huge ensemble cast are great including, Santiago Cabrera, Elvira Mínguez, Jorge Perugorría, Edgar Ramirez, Victor Rasuk , Carlos Bardem, Joaquim de Almeida, Eduard Fernández, Marc-André Grondin , Catalina Sandino Moreno and Franka Potente.

Trivia: Director Steven Soderbergh became the first director in years to have twin Best Director Oscar nominations for Erin Brockovich (2000) and Traffic (2000). He has directed three actors to Oscar nominations: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, and Benicio Del Toro. Roberts and Del Toro won the Best Actress and Best Supp. Actor Oscars. Benicio Del Toro is passionate about oil painting. Lucky for all of us that he was offered the role of Reinaldo Arenas in Before Night Falls that eventually went to Javier Bardem. He turned it down to be in friend Christopher McQuarrie's The Way of the Gun. He is the third Puerto Rican Actor to win an Academy Award. The other two were: Rita Moreno (West Side Story and José Ferrer. Alberto Korda, the photographer who took the picture of Che Guevara that became an icon of left-wing revolutionaries and students worldwide, died aged 72 in 2001. Although Korda kept the negative and the camera, he never received royalties for the picture. He was happy to see it used as a revolutionary banner - but when a vodka company used it in an advertisement one year, Korda drew the line.

Predilection: I am interested in Revolution.

Critters: All sorts of livestock, dogs, cats and an ill-treated horse.

Food: Revolutionaries do not eat well. Lots of corn.

Opening Titles: The beginning of both films start with maps.

Visual Art: Director of photography, Peter Andrews (a pseudonym for Steven Soderbergh) is terrific.

Theater Audience: Packed. Not one seat was empty. Filled with beret and camouflage wearing, old and would be lefties.

Squirm Scale: Revolution is messy

Drift Factor: I did look at my watch as each film was closing in on the two hour mark.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Perhaps Benicio Del Toro will get an Oscar nod.

Soap Box: In 1960, just a year after coming to power, Guevara's glorious revolution established forced labor camps housing 'undesirables'. The camps were the precursor to the eventual systematic confinement, starting in 1965 in the province of Camagüey, of dissidents, homosexuals, AIDS victims, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Afro-Cuban priests under the banner of Military Units to Help Production. Herded into buses and trucks, the “unfit” would be transported at gunpoint into concentration camps. Some would never return - others would be raped, beaten, or mutilated. Most would be traumatized for life. The Communist Cuban regime's treatment of homosexuals was most famously recounted in Reinaldo Arenas's Before Night Falls, starring Javier Bardem..

Big Screen or Rental: Either would be fine. The following are films about Che, or have Che as one of the characters. El 'Che' Guevara (1968) — Francisco Rabal, Che! (1969)— Omar Sharif, Evita (1996) — Antonio Banderas, El Día Que Me Quieras (1997) — directed by Leandro Katz (1997), Hasta la victoria siempre (1999) — Alfredo Vasco, Fidel (2002) — Gael García Bernal
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) — Gael García Bernal (2004), The Lost City (2005) — Jsu Garcia, The Argentine (2007) — Benicio Del Toro, Guerrilla (2007) — Benicio Del Toro

Length: Part 1 is 2 hours 9 minutes, and Part 2 is 2 hours 8 minutes.

LOBO HOWLS: 8