Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Che: Parts 1 and 2 (2008)

Che Guevara was an Argentine Marxist who rose to fame as one of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution. He's also the subject of Stephen Soderbergh's 4 hour (!) biopic, Che. The project initially started out only covering the end of Che's life, after he left Cuba to take up a guerilla war in Bolivia, but Soderbergh felt that the script lacked context that could only be gained by also covering Guevara's Cuban experience. Hence, monstrously long movie of longness. In Spanish. So if four hours of subtitles isn't your thing, you can skip this review right now.

The film comes in two parts (subtitled The Argentinian and Guerilla) which cover Guevara's involvement in the Cuban and Bolivian revolutions, respectively. You can get the parts separately or together in a two-disc set. I did the latter. Watched back to back, they do a good job of depicting the similarities and differences between the two conflicts. They also do a good job (especially the second) in depicting the hardships and stresses of guerilla warfare.

Where the parts (again, especially the second one) are less successful is in producing a coherent view of events. I've recently read a biography of Guevara, so I was able to follow events OK, but I think that anyone who just sat down to watch it without that background might find it a bit disjointed. The first part also plays a lot with the chronological order, jumping between pre-revolution, post-revolution and mid-revolution events. Despite this non-linear approach however, I felt it was easier to follow and enjoy than the latter part. That may also be a factor of the tone, though: the second section is considerably more grim than the first.

These were quite interesting films about a very interesting figure in 20th century history. They're quite a commitment though, and won't be to all tastes.

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