Sunday, June 14, 2009

SFF Day 12: Che 1 and Che 2

The first Che film follows the period from his meeting with Castro to the triumphant battle in Santa Clara in 1959. Benicio Del Toro is brilliant as Che providing you with a passionate, direct confident man as he evolves from doctor to guerilla. A true revolutionary!

The film spends a lot of time on the evolution of the fighters in the jungle and is always moving forward with key events moving you through the time line towards the inevitable conclusion of overthrowing Batista. It is intercut with a recreation of his 1964 trip to the UN (Which is cut in black and white almost newsreel style) - which forms a great counterpart to the jungle warfare of the film.

There are no real surprises in this film but it is a engaging representation of the events and time.

The second Che film follows his doomed attempts at a revolution Bolivia in the mid 1960's. This film is more of the jungle/guerilla struggle you see in the first film with less of the major events to punctuate it. It spends a lot of time on the continued struggle to fight (but with less passion from the fighters than the first). It depicts the suspicion held for the Cubans at both a political and a personal/on the ground level. Less compelling than the first this film feels overly long. Still a great piece of cinema - visually stunning and the last hour is harrowing as the numbers of the guerillas dwindles and various ambushes and traps are set.

Some interesting editorial decisions are made - the inclusion of the US in the strategic discussions and training is deliberately portrayed, with only a passing mention to the USSR's involvement. Additionally, few of the characters apart from Che (Who is LARGER THAN LIFE!) are developed through either film.

A great film-festival package with the 2 films shown with a short interval between. The first film will stand alone and sell tickets almost anywhere. The second would struggle to find an audience outside of the true fans or festival circuit.

It is interesting to note that the project was driven by Del Toro and Steven Soderbergh knew very little of Che when he came to this project. The writing is credited to both a screen writer and Che's (through his diaries)

Here ends the SFF for 2009. A quick note Bronson has been awarded the prize for 2009.

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