Che: Part One
At Cannes, Steven Soderbergh’s diptych of films about Che Guevara were shown consecutively, but British audiences are being asked to spend a month pondering The Argentine (original title) before we see Guerrilla (part two) – a wise move that improves the viewing experience. Soderbergh prefers to show fact rather than get bogged down by trite dramatic gimmicks. This biopic sees life as a collection of incidents rather than a coherent whole with a beginning, middle and end. Three events are used to highlight Che’s philosophy and his penchant for armed revolution – his initial meeting with Fidel Castro in Mexico in 1955; the fighting in the Sierra Maesta mountain regions that ends with the 1959 victory march to Havana; and his controversial 1964 speech to the United Nations. An interview with a journalist in the lead up to this speech is used to hang the events together and provide some biographical information, but this is loose and, crucially, information on the important Camilo Cienfuegos fighters is minimal. Che’s memoir Reminisces of a Cuban Revolutionary War is an important source.
Benito Del Toro is a formidable Che. No one in cinema wheezes quite like he can, which is especially beneficial in the scenes when Che is crippled by frequent asthma attacks. The major dramatic drawback to this structurally magnificent film is that Soderbergh refuses to pass judgement on Che, good or bad, and frustratingly shies away from showing his most brutal excesses or any Hollywood style heroism.
General release from Fri 2 Jan