Saturday, July 25, 2009

CHE: GUERILLA, PART TWO (Steven Soderbergh, 2008, Spain)

“The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.” –Bertrand Russell

Che the chameleon camouflages himself in the Bolivian jungle, hoping to ease the suffering of the poor, balancing the scales of Justice but only bringing bloodshed and disorder. Director Steven Soderbergh once again fails to depict a multi-faceted individual in Ernesto Guevara, and relies on iconic imagery and his cult of personality to define this complex revolutionary. Though Che is seen honoring his soldiers and their familial plights, giving medical attention to the poor and never stealing from the peasants, we fail to see his “death or victory” attitude, this destructive impulse that keeps him from peaceful compromise. It would be enlightening to read between the lines of his idealistic diaries but Soderbergh struggles to produce this important subtext and navigate these troubled emotional waters; he’s lost in the rapid prose of idolatry. The narrative is fairly straightforward with little exposition, and we truly fail to understand (except on a superficial level) why Che chose Bolivia to begin a revolution: after all, innocent people suffer all over the world. Che is abandoned by his Communist comrades and betrayed by the very people he attempts to free from bondage: from his perspective, it’s him against the World. The film seems to portray Che as the godhead of the uprising, which is his fatal flaw…and the one that the CIA-backed Bolivian forces exploit. There seems to be no plan for success, as if Che could not think beyond the immediate future threats he confronted daily. Che is unlike Castro, a murderer who knew that complete power would be under his control and manipulated Che towards this narcissistic goal. Soderbergh films on location utilizing natural lighting, which adds a documentary style to the violent narrative. We are taken into the sweltering heat of the jungle, experience the wheezing cough of the asthmatic Che, and hear the droning planes as they rain death from above. Finally, after Che’s capture, we witness his unjust execution from his POV: three gunshots and a pair of grimy boots are a requiem for this young man; his last vision is the bright light of oblivion. Maybe there is sympathy for the devil, after all. (C-)

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