This, Steven Soderbergh's Che, opens Friday, in extremely-limited release at the wonderful IFC Films theater, downtown Big Apple. I'd really like to offer some concrete opinion on the film, but honestly, it baffled the hell out of me when I saw it over a month ago. It's two separate 2-hour movies (shown back-to-back, with a brief take-a-piss-now intermission sandwiched between), covering specific episodes of Ernesto "Che" Guevara's life.
See, I went in expecting a straightforward biopic (stupid, momentarily-close-minded me), but what I got was sort of an anti-biopic in ways. Rather than fully form the infamous revolutionary's life (and explain to hipster wannabes wearing his face on their trendy T-shirts who exactly they're supporting, and what made him such a polarizing yet in-ways inspirational figure), Che sticks to three periods: the Cuban revolution he helped spearhead alongside Fidel Castro; a trip he took to the United Nations in 1964 (both this and the Cuba portion are found in the first half, The Argentine); and his tragic failure to duplicate a Cuba-like uprising in Bolivia (which takes the whole of the second half, Guerrilla). Steven Soderbergh, director here (the Ocean's 11 flicks, Traffic, etc), acts as more of an observational documentarian who occasionally employs some top-notch technical tricks, but mostly watches with his camera as key events in Che's revolutionist career unfold.
Slow-paced, meticulous. Pretty brave, and not for attention-disorderlies. After seeing that first time a month ago, I left a whole-lot confused. Why don't I feel like I truly know what made Che tick now? or, Where was the backstory, the childhood that formed him, the love affairs? In fact, I'd decided that I didn't like the film. Felt more cheated than enlightened, empty than fulfilled....
...looking back, though, after some time filled with mulling-over and deliberation, I think I'm somewhat in awe of the film. Must find time to see it again, soon. Visually, its downright breathtaking in spots, and merely wonderful in others. And the sporadic action moments hit hard, for sure. Then, there's the powerhouse by Benicio Del Toro, who's on screen a good 97% of the time and never fails to command. I'd love to see him score an Oscar nomination, but the field is looking quite full this year, so my hunch says he'll get looked over. Let's hope not.
If nothing else, I'm recommending Che simply on the grounds of "you've never seen a biopic quite like this before." Its an arduous task, sure, but if you've ever possessed a history-buff urge, or the desire to watch master talents exercising their artistic freedom and lack of "but this isn't commercial" fears, its really something else.
Now, Mr. Del Toro.....bring on the cot-damn Wolfman! Wait, The Wolfman just got pushed back to November 2009, you say? Fuck a duck!
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