Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Che" (Language - Spanish) (2008) - Movie Review

Che Guevera as equally and ironically presents as a complex person as any human being. An idealist consumes his life for the perfection that could never be achieved. Yet that is what makes them the glorified and the infamous. They are the aberrant in the chaotic society. Every one perceives this personality with different notions. Called as a murderer, terrorist and what not, Guevera is a symbol regardless of one’s opinion. A person choosing the method of violence, one would imagine any director would dissect the mind of this man in a biopic film. And any director given the independence to provide two films to expand on the details would go through the bits and pieces of information. Steven Soderbergh though is not any director.

In this two part film spanning together for 261 minutes, contains the most intense performance by Benicio Del Toro as the controversial icon and a series of scenes which gives an illusion of going nowhere but always on target about the persona. The first part begins with the invitation from Fidel Castro (Demián Bichir) to join forces for the Cuban revolution. Soderbergh even before going to the film provides a sense of geography. He lays out the map of Cuba and marks the territories and divisions which would become a legend to the audience watching the film. He does the same in Part Two withe map of South America. Che takes up the offer and the journey begins.

While the various steps of the revolution are set up and Che goes along serving his values as duties, Soderbergh takes through the interview of Lisa Howard (Julia Ormond) did with Che in 1964 when he was in US attending UN general assembly. This becomes a guide to Che’s commentary of the his life from March 1957 till the end of Cuban revolution in the Guerilla warfare alongside Castro. There is no reference of his personal life apart from Aleida (Catalina Sandino Moreno) becoming his city guide and eventually his second wife. Even their involvement or interest in each other is nothing different from his relationship with the every soldier in his column.

The film thus becomes a history lesson going up and close with Che’s column. He builds a society within the confines of the bushes. Being a doctor, he automatically becomes a medic and reaches out to the peasants nearby to render his services. Most of them have one common disease, malnutrition and hunger. When others around the fire pit perform amateur entertainment to their fellow soldiers, Che calmly on the distance reads a book and smiles noticing the small fun his compadres have.

It is a film with neither a participation nor a close observation on this man. It becomes detailed and clinical as a documentary. It does not pose it as any war and moves away from the controversial tones towards Che. It treats the man as he is while not becoming aware of it more than they want to. Che is shown as a personality with a strong belief on literacy. He is particular about his crew being able to read and write. When they are exhausted and starving for several days, he asks a soldier to bring his math book for some exercise.

Another fascination in this film is how much his asthma attack played an intense part in this struggle. Entering into the jungles and going towards meeting Castro’s group in Cuba, he barely is able to walk and rests for support on his rifle. In the Part Two, his health becomes a critical game changer when he forgets his medicine and suffer from it while slowing down the group. He beats himself up for that. Beyond these, he survived the war and the atrocious ambience the forest posed.

“Che” will not approach its viewer. Neither does it invite them. Steven Soderbergh does not take grandeur in approaching this film. It is not the pumped up emotional cum war drama every one would expect. Instead it makes you take the journey alongside the man without becoming his soldier. You see him discipline his crew and condition them for the worst while keeping his focus on the purpose. He is sarcastic, comical and when compassionate, he can melt any cold heart.

Clearly Part One has more energy than Part Two as the former is a success of the protagonist while later is a failure of the same. But both the films are approached with same sincerity by Soderbergh and Del Toro. Part Two in the end evokes unexpected sympathy from us. Throughout the films we are kept aside of knowing the man as a person or we feel that way and when he is ready to be executed, we are clouded by strangest sense of sadness. In the process of making us assume that we are distant from him, we were indeed exposed to his personal life which is his revolution and liberation itself.

The film takes the distant stand away on the issues and as Che himself never denies its participation in the violence. It goes through this stubborn personality in his march for matching his ideals to existence. It takes a sympathy to the personality in the end but any human being killed has to be sympathized when you get to know them. We do not feel for the tons of army men he kills because this is not a film about them but we are moved when he meets his end. And the way Soderbergh gives it is not exploitative rather sadly poetic.

It is a film to be patient and do not expect a goal out of this. There are no explanations. It is a statement and the aspiration to portray and depict it to the facts than kindle melodramatic grand exercise that generally comes forth in a biopic. The two films regardless of the time it takes sails through with combination of some strong flurried supporting actors and spectacular cinematography by Peter Andrews in the process. The great job of aligning these immense information in two films requires some properly laid out work in screenplay by Peter Buchman and Benjamin A. van der Ven based on the diaries by Che Guevera.

What does this man to me on personal level is the question every one asks at the end of these two films. He is inspiring and driven beyond I could imagine. He had so much character and at the same time had resorted to violence with such a self proclaimed justification. He is systematic and original and never has been misunderstood by any. I guess this expose of his character is the reason he appeals to many and contradicts in several of his actions. I think he exemplifies the dilemma of a regular person and chooses quickly on decision. He does not carry a regret or at least in Soderbergh’s version and becomes practical when essential. Regardless of the controversial position he holds in the history, he is as simple and straightforward as any next person and as complex in his actions as any next person. Soderbergh appreciates that aspect and provides a life in this epic presentation.


Bombay Belle said...

Great review. I liked the bit in the end about what Che means to you and how you percieve him. I'm looking forward to watching this film.

Ashok said...

Hey Thanks again ! You should check out Steven Soderbergh's independent films like "sex, lies and videotape", "Bubble", "The Girlfriend Experience". You will be surprised how he can take "Oceans Eleven" and these films.