Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Che Guevara - Four and a Half Hours to Celebrate, Thank and Applaud Revolution..and let's not forget, Murder

Tonight I spent a comfy 4 and a half hours through the bio-epic Ernesto Che Guevara film done by Steven Soderbergh. Although my intentions for the film were to understand better those actions behind the revolutionary and psychotic mind of the man, instead I got a feel good, we all love Che, Che can do no wrong…Che never killed a man film. Well he never did personally in the movie, kill a man. At least not from what I remember… unless the 20-minute Intermission, constant personal sewing of comrades’ battle wounds, or high winds of Cuba or Bolivia, swept those bad images from my mind. Although I would never spoil such a film for anyone looking to see it, I would suggest you see it in its entirety if possible because to cut this movie in half is to subject yourself to having the ingredients for a sandwich on your plate, yet the first and only thing you can eat is the bread.

My minor obsession with Che Guevara started in Amsterdam three months ago, unaware that there was a movie ever even being made about the man with the Communist ideals. It was his face that we couldn’t avoid. Every shop we’d passed on the way to a jazz club, the Anne Frank House, or the Red Light District, we saw a t-shirt hanging with a shadow silk-screened onto it. A celebration of some man…a man who’s name we’d known but couldn’t pronounce, and couldn’t relate anything to. The face looked like that of a proud young druglord with blown-out muttonchops and an untamed muslim beard. A beret kept his unkempt hair, kept, and his face held such mystery and power that it dared further research. He must’ve done something right to be remembered, to be bled and smeared onto shirts for young skaters and eco-degenerates to praise. But the more I dug deeper to find out this man’s history, the more I related him to Fidel Castro and the murdering tendencies we’ve all associated with Amin of Uganda. However, I think a bit differently about such men after a recent conversation. Normally we’re brought up to hate such men because only what we know of them were the horrors they caused. It was a talk with a man who worked to introduce a brief glimmer of light in a dictator’s purpose and the extent by which his or her damage actually often make’s unique progress….and that too is the goal of a revolutionary….progress, not just destruction and death. This dictator, for conversational reference to the point I’m making overall was Adolf Hitler, and although he is one of the worst people in the world to emulate, he turned what was then a desperate German society where any local mother would wheelbarrow millions of her own Deutsche-Marks into the grocer’s market and dump it on the shop-owner’s countertop just to buy an apple, to a thriving competitive global and economic force within only 9 years. Che and his buddy Fidel were not all too different in what they wanted for farmers and countrymen, to get them out from under Baptista. Che, an Argentinean by blood, and an educated doctor, we should already note is a bit outrageous for leaving his family to go fight for some other country’s people. Believing that the best way to overthrow a power that they truly believe the people want overthrown, is by brute force and guerrilla warfare. So public that everyone hears about it, so daring that it can’t be mistaken in the news as some accidental exchange of friendly-fire at a jolly quail hunt out in the jungle. The movie itself is a masterpiece in the geographical landscapes and scenes it portrays amongst the forests and mountains it pitches tent after tent. It also reveals a unique take on the life of a revolutionary…..a lonely nomadic existence, laying your head against a different tree trunk each night. And the things one abandons such as family and freedom for this life in hiding, always on the run making your next move for people who aren’t sure they really care you’re there because it puts them in equally more danger. Benicio Del Toro did a fantastic job….he really did, but then again he remains the same character he usually is, a slower moving, talking and squinting version of himself, except this time with a bad case of asthma and a love for Cuban cigars and cigarettes. Soderbegh should’ve never had the Hollywood celebrity cameo that you’ll catch in the 2nd part of Che because it seriously deters from the movie’s local mission and geographic feel. In fact I dont even remember what his part was it threw me off so bad to see him. The whole film is subtitles as they’re speaking Spanish, some scenes even with thousands of locals scattered amongst the brush in tactical formats…and there, this additional character out of the blue, although brief, was a totally unnecessary casting decision that jostled audience whispers and deep breaths of disappointment.

Aside from that, the film cut out Che’s motorcycle ride across the South American continent that made him come to love and appreciate it’s beauty so much, the celebratory years after defeating Baptista that became more of a conflict in service and opinion amongst Fidel and his inferiors, as well as his unsuccessful attempt at stirring up a revolution in the Congo. The movie lacks any love story, which I actually liked since these days everything has to do with what piece of ass is affecting the main character’s current decisions. For some reason they chose to have it be a film that jumps around a lot, irrationally shifting from different time periods in ten minute intervals. His life is a story of successive battles...moaning and roaring his wise demeanor into the ultimate sculpture, and therefore the time flickerings just makes us work harder to keep focused on what city or year we’re in.

In the end, I hated that I liked Che the man (I knew I'd like the movie), because they portrayed him more as the doctor and next door neighbor than the obsessed maniac cult leader with a gun who imprisoned eager minds to join him in shooting the heads off any dissenters he’d crossed. How can you be one of Fidel Castro’s most lethal and feared assassins if you’re a saint with a heart of gold? Give me a break. I think if we’d seen more of a mental struggle with what Fidel had become and how it differed so much from what Che wanted to achieve, which was never-ending liberation of all of Latin America, than we would’ve understood the more obsessive, stop-at-nothing murderer that he’d really been….enough so to understand why any country would ever request his hand be chopped off for fingerprint analysis and confirmation that he really was caught……even this was left out of the movie, making my point stronger for the blatent disregard of historical fact to swap amicably for admiration and tender-loving vittles we and our kittens should enjoy when thinking about the motives and the man behind the loved interjection Hey “Pal” or “Bud” or “Che”.

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