CHE: PART ONE: The Film Babble Blog Review

CHE: PART ONE (Dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2008)

The prospect of an over 4 hour historical epic spread over 2 separate contained movies will no doubt be daunting to most moviegoers, but the first half of CHE is incredibly involving despite its murkiness and powerful despite its sometimes plodding pace. Originally released last December for it to be eligible for the years Oscars (it didnt get nominated for anything) in a limited release as one combined film, it now hits the rest of the country in a special roadshow edition with PART TWO following close behind PART ONE‘s release.

PART ONE mostly takes place in the late 50s with an asthmatic Ernesto Che Guevara, portrayed with fierce grace by Benicio del Toro (also one of the film’s producers), joining Fidel Castros (a dead on Demian Bichir) movement in Havana, Cuba. It has a flashback framework serving as semi narration from a 60s interview with TV journalist Lisa Howard (Julia Ormond), later cutting between Guevaras United Nations address and intense street warfare. These non-Cuban set-pieces are presented in grainy black and white, while the gritty yet vivid color of the exteriors enforces the implication that all that isnt in the heart of the jungle for Che is simply artifice and not real life.

With the subtitle THE ARGENTINE (and Spanish subtitles to boot), this film works well on its own yet still leaves one wanting for a follow-up. Soderbergh successfully structures a docu drama feel in which real footage and photographs blend beautifully with the immacualte recreations. It is indeed a shame that the Academy snubbed this film, particularly del Toro whose precise performance is definitely in the league of Sean Penns Harvey Milk potrayal that took home the award. Penn himself was shocked and pondered over the lack of award nods for CHE suggesting that: Maybe because its in Spanish, maybe the length, maybe the politics. None of those factors should deter folks from taking the plunge into CHE: PART ONE; it may be tough going at times but its impossible to ignore its soaring sense of purpose. Several satisfying though viciously violent sequences save the film from inaccessibility and in moments like when del Toro answers interviewer Ormonds question about what is the most important quality for a revolutionary to possess by saying love he is utterly convincing. Heres hoping PART TWO: GUERILLA lives up to PART ONEs mighty promise.

More later…

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