Why Che Guevara, and why now? Unlike The Motorcycle Diaries and 20th Century Fox’s long-ago debacle, Che!, Steven Soderbergh’s two-part, four-hour Che is neither romantic nor even particularly partisan. The movie presents its subject almost entirely in the context of three events—the Cuban Revolution, the Bolivian debacle, and a 1964 trip to the United Nations. As a result, some have accused Soderbergh and screenwriter Peter Buchman of evading the facts: Where was Che’s bureaucratic bungling and his persecution of political enemies? What about his love affairs? His adventures in the Congo? Everything must be deduced from Che’s behavior under actual or rhetorical fire—he is defined in terms of his desire and capacity to make history. Whatever Soderbergh’s intentions, Che is most definitely not a movie in the hyper-dramatizing tradition of D.W. Griffith or Steven Spielberg. History is not personalized. As a filmmaker, Soderbergh is closer to Otto Preminger in his observational use of the moving camera, or to Roberto Rossellini, whose serenely understated period documentaries presented historical facts as though they were commonplace. At its best, Che is both action film and ongoing argument. Every Bolivian sequence has its Cuban parallel, which is why Che’s two parts are best seen together. Part One may be the more realized of the two—and could certainly stand on its own—but it is only comprehensible in the light of Part Two. Elevating Part Two to tragedy, Part One puts some hope in hopelessness—and even in history.
Starts: Jan. 16. Daily, 2009

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