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The Motorcycle Diaries

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"Long overdue"?

FWIW, as I was flipping through my copy of The Golden Turkey Awards the other day, I came across a reference to the 1969 movie Che!, in which Guevara was played by Omar Sharif and Fidel Castro was played by Jack Palance; the latter actor was nominated for 'The Worst Casting of All Time', though he lost to John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror. (It was directed by Richard Fleischer, whose credits include such varied films as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Barabbas, the original Doctor Dolittle and Conan the Destroyer.)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Saw the long trailer on the big screen before Before Sunset and was intrigued. Looks like the performances will be impressive, and the cinematography, at the very least.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Plus it's directed by Walter Salles, director of Central Station, which is promising. But, as one who lives in a town where people habitually swoon over communist nostalgia (oh, how I remember my skin crawling when someone CHEERED the socialist theft of a farmer's property in Ken Loach's Land and Freedom), I sure ain't looking forward to the politics of this film, or to the reception that it gets on that level here.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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There's an interview in this week's Big Issue (UK) which discusses the film with Gael Garcia what's his face. It seems that one of the things the director was attempting was to break the myth of Che as a socialist hero, which is something i feel is essential. By that, it's re-directing the attention away from the much coveted poster-boy image and focussing it on his ideals which were arrived at after a long learning process and most importantly working alongside others. The irony of Guevara receiving so much attention (understandably, a charasmatic figure and pretty darn attractive) is that it undermines everything he actually worked and stood for - the strength of many united and working towards a common goal as opposed to the individual who stands out above the community.

It sounds like this is a film that has something new to add to this debate, and isn't just a romantic portrayal that lacks depth and understanding of the complexeties of the person and the political beliefs that shaped him. At least, I hope so.


"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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I had to choose between The Bourne Supremacy, The Village and Motorcycle Diaries, and I chose the latter simply because it was the outsider, even though I had no idea what it was about. Call me dumb, but I didn't even realize it was about Che Guevara until the end-titles, though I'm kind of glad about that, because I wonder how involved I would have let myself become had I known I was watching a biographical picture about such a controversial figure.

A beautiful film, one of those that still haunted me the day after. I'm going to try and catch it again, and I'll post more thoughts then.

PS. Given that I generally don't catch films until a year or several years after their release, I am proud to be the first on A&F to have seen this one!


Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

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Huh, is it already out in Britain, then? FWIW, there is a press screening of this film in Vancouver on Tuesday, in conjunction with our upcoming film festival, but I believe it's not due to be given a proper release until October.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Caught it this morning. Liked it. Was surprised by how little there was in the way of actual politics here.

At the end of the film, Ernesto (the future Che) says he will have to think about what he has seen on his travels, and he remarks that there is "so much injustice", and I found this remark striking on two levels.

First, Ernesto and his friend Alberto went on to become partly responsible for the Communist state of Cuba, which is surely not the best example of justice in the world either.

Second, and more significantly, the film spends so little time on POLITICAL injustice that I was struck much more by the many NATURAL injustices (for lack of a better word) that Ernesto comes across in his travels. Ernesto suffers from asthma and comes down with a number of illnesses over the course of the film; he is also a med student, and he and his friend are ultimately heading to a leper colony at the end of their travels, where they plan to work for a few weeks; along the way, he spots a tumour in one man's neck, and remarks that a cow is going blind, and I could not help but notice how many of the older indigenous people that he meets and loves have lost their teeth, etc. One of the leprosy victims he meets tells him, "Life is pain," and I could not help but think that Ernesto was brushing up against something of cosmic significance -- the incredible beauty of the South American landscape when seen from afar, the many small tragedies that one sees up close -- and it seemed awfully pathetic, almost a sign of resignation, that he settled for addressing merely political injustices in his later life.

Perhaps there are subtle political touches that I missed. I did catch the fact that the man with the tumour has a German last name (von something-or-other) and his wife a German first name; since this film takes place in 1952, just seven years after World War II, I guess we're supposed to think that these are fugitive Nazis or something, but perhaps not. (My mother grew up in the Chaco in Paraguay, where there is a strong Mennonite community, and when I told her that my best friend's birthday was on April 20, she said, "Oh, that's Hitler's birthday!" How did you know? I asked. "Oh, EVERYbody in Paraguay knew that," she said. I don't believe Ernesto and Alberto ever visit Paraguay -- they start in Argentina and make their way through Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela -- but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Germans could be found all over that continent.) Perhaps there were other, similar details like that that I missed.

Anyway, good film. Would be interested to hear what others have to say about it.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Something else occurs to me. This film goes out of its way to emphasize that Ernesto (the future "Che") is honest, in contrast to his friend Alberto, who is always bulls---ting and flattering people; Ernesto tells the truth to people even if it is not what they want to hear, e.g. when he meets the German with the tumour in his neck, and when he is asked by one person what he thinks of the story that the other guy has written. Ernesto is not entirely above telling untruths, if he stands to gain from it -- there is an amusing episode involving a bogus newspaper story which is apparently historical (we see the actual newspaper clipping on the screen during the end credits) -- but his basic default mode is one of honesty. This reminds me of the way that, e.g., Americans emphasize the honesty of their own most mythic leaders ("Honest Abe" Lincoln, George "I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree" Washington), but it is also striking to see the film emphasize this angle when it seems the film is told, to some degree at least, from the point of view of the very dishonest (but in a charming way) Alberto.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just got back from seeing this. It was the first time I've seen an audience in the U.K. applaud at the end of a film.

the man with the tumour has a German last name (von something-or-other) and his wife a German first name

The man calls his wife "Schatzi" which is a term of affection in German. The english equivalent would be something like "darling", "sweetheart" or more literally "treasure".

spoilers1.gif

I was interested to see how the film would handle the moments showing the doctor Ernesto gradually turning into the politically minded Che. Some I can think of:

his speech on his birthday at the leper colony.

the recurring black and white images of the people he meets, grouped together.

the various books he can be seen reading.

I thought most of these moments settled quite subtly into the proceedings, but his speech just seemed a little separate from the rest of its context.

What kept coming to mind were the moments of a similar nature in Attack of the Clones where the film tries to fill us in on the transformation of the unknown boy Anakin into the well-known Darth Vader who can force strangle people.

- You're not all-powerful, Ani.

- Well I should be!

(da-da-daaaaa!)

-I killed them. I killed them all. They're dead, every single one of them. And not just the men, but the women and the children, too. They're like animals, and I slaughtered them like animals. I HATE THEM.

(DA-DA-DAAAAAAAAAA!)

The Motorcycle Diaries had the feel of a fictional prequel for real-life.

What interests me is that in a lot of the moments in the film, such as the speech and the black and white group images, Ernesto and his changing viewpoint becomes quite threatening. The groups reminded me of photos taken of military units before battles. It did feel at times that Ernesto was turning into as much of a violent sociopath as a cool, poster-ready revolutionary leader.

Edited by Ben

"Art is the most passionate orgy within man's grasp."

-- John Donne

My home page

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Ben wrote:

: What interests me is that in a lot of the moments in the film, such as the speech

: and the black and white group images, Ernesto and his changing viewpoint

: becomes quite threatening. The groups reminded me of photos taken of military

: units before battles. It did feel at times that Ernesto was turning into as much of a

: violent sociopath as a cool, poster-ready revolutionary leader.

Wow! I didn't get that out of it at all -- the black-and-white shots reminded me of the haloed shots at the end of Not of This World more than anything else. Except, of course, that where that Italian film is appealing to the spiritual reality that lies behind everyone's seemingly humdrum life (and suggesting a sense of "vocation" over all things), this Latin American film is appealing more to the material reality and demanding some form of "justice" for these workers.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I found the political speech at the birthday party almost unforgiveable at first -- kind of like that awfully didactic speech by the schoolteacher at the end of Truffaut's L'Argent de Poche -- but when I realized at the end that the film was about Che Guevara (doh!), it seemed a bit more plausible.


Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

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The fact that the character is Che Guevara does make the speech "plausible", in a sense, but I think one could still argue that the film doesn't really warm us up for the speech, at least not dramatically; that is, the speech makes sense given what we know of the character's LATER actions, but I'm not sure it makes sense given what the movie shows us of his EARLIER actions. Che's assertion that there is only one Latin American race, or whatever, does kind of come from out of nowhere -- and it actually contradicts his earlier experience, where he and Alberto are chased out of that one Chilean town by men who call them "Argentine scum" or something to that effect.

BTW, does anyone know enough about Che to know what was in that later that his girlfriend sent to him? We can guess, of course -- and I like the fact that the movie doesn't feel obliged to spell everything out for us -- but I'm wondering if the details and outcome of that relationship has at least been spelled out in the historical record.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Anyone know anything about the release schedule for this film? Alan says above that it's opening (in limited release, I assume) on September 24, but I know it's coming to Vancouver on October 8, so presumably it's broadening out fairly quickly ...


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Che's assertion that there is only one Latin American race, or whatever, does kind of come from out of nowhere -- and it actually contradicts his earlier experience, where he and Alberto are chased out of that one Chilean town by men who call them "Argentine scum" or something to that effect. 

But weren't they chased out because Ernesto was getting a little too personal with the mechanic's wife? Although it is ambiguous whether they hated them anyway and had alreadydestroyed the bike's brakes.

Edited by Ben

"Art is the most passionate orgy within man's grasp."

-- John Donne

My home page

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Ben wrote:

: : Che's assertion that there is only one Latin American race, or whatever, does

: : kind of come from out of nowhere -- and it actually contradicts his earlier

: : experience, where he and Alberto are chased out of that one Chilean town by

: : men who call them "Argentine scum" or something to that effect.

:

: But weren't they chased out because Ernesto was getting a little too personal with

: the mechanic's wife?

Yeah, but the point here is that international prejudice exists, as exemplified by the kind of slurs that the one group of guys threw at the other. The particular REASON the slurs were thrown is a separate matter.

: Although it is ambiguous whether they hated them anyway and had already

: destroyed the bike's brakes.

Oh, interesting point. Though I think it would be more accurate to say that the bike was taken from the shop before the repairs were finished.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I STILL haven't seen this so I can't really mention anything about the film's potrayal, but from what I recall from the book, the two of them were pretty cheeky chappies who, at first at least, treated their host towns with little respect. Much like the English in Greece/Spain, and yes: generalisation, but enough people do it that it is a problem which inevitably becomes referred to in terms of nationality and not individuals.

I think, also, that it is important to remember that Latin America has as divided a history as any other continent. Argentina and Chile have fought many wars, argued consistently over territory (particularly in the south where the Andes fade to Patagonian flatlands and no longer provide a natural divide) and air space. Remember the Falklands? Chile provided a base for the UK's planes (hence Thatcher's support of Pinochet when he was arrested). So, yes, of course there are national divisions. It's important to point out that Che is not Ernesto Guevara's given name, but one allocated to him by non-Argentine Latin Americans he later worked alongside because "che" is the Argentine version of "hey." So yes, the fact that he is Argentinian is critical but I don't think it undermines the idea of a united Latin American experience. Take the United States - people (particularly non-US citizens) forget how large the country is. The size of a continent. Would you compare the experience of someone from... umm... say... Missouri to someone from New York state? Yes AND no, right? It serves a purpose to be united under a nationality, despite differences in local experiences. Similarly, Latin America has centuries' worth of shared experience and is a much more powerful force when united. For example the Organisation of American States provides for leverage with the g8 states. Furthermore, Latin America are incredibly resource-rich continents. So Che's vision of an united Latin America is not a call for collapse of national identities but rather a call for mutual support for a shared humanitarian goal. And now, really, that's not an idea that is so unfamiliar. Is it?

If anyone is interested in reading more about Latin America's colonial history and its influence today I recomend Eduardo Galeano's "The Open Veins of Latin America." Some might say it is a little heavy handed, but it is beautifully and articulately written and an educational experience.

Anyway - must see this movie...


"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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gigi wrote:

: So yes, the fact that he is Argentinian is critical but I don't think it undermines the

: idea of a united Latin American experience.

Undermines, no. But when the sentiment of a united Latin American experience comes up near the end of the film, it does kind of come out of nowhere, and, if anything, it does kind of fly in the face of at least one experience that the two characters have already had. If the film was trying to show us that Ernesto and Alberto were, at first, the sort of people who treated their host towns with disrespect, then I don't think it succeeded; there isn't THAT much of an arc to these characters.

But I guess I would have to see the film again, with all this in mind, before I could say for sure.

: Take the United States - people (particularly non-US citizens) forget how large the

: country is. The size of a continent.

Ahem. Certain Canadians might take issue with that -- after all, WE'VE got the second-largest land mass in the world, while you Yanks only have the fourth.

smile.gif


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Hey, it's just acting

The Motorcycle Diaries is a Brazilian adaptation of Guevara's memoir of the same name about his formative 1952 trek as a medical student through South America on the back of a 1939 Norton. The actors and director filmed along the budding revolutionary's path and found the experience similarly transformative. "I think inevitably a journey like this leads you to become a different person," said Bernal, who noted that impoverished conditions have changed very little along the route in the past fifty years. This does not mean that Bernal plans to Hasta la Victoria Siempre! it up, mind you. The young Mexican actor said that his generation feels that armed revolution led to a lot of bloodshed, but little progress for Latin Americans. The work of democratically-elected leaders -- whether Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, or Mexican President Vicente Fox -- has shown him that change can occur via the electoral process. More than one journalist looked visibly disappointed by Bernal's enlightened response.

National Post, September 14


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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As I write this I am listening to the film's wonderful soundtrack. I love it when listening to the music transports you right back into the film itself, evoking the same emotions over again. I've had a pretty rough day today, in one way and another, and listening to the beautiful guitar piece De Usahia a la Quiaca, which played over the film's final montage, is making me want to cry.


Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

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you Yanks

*coughs and splutters*

YANK!

I'm a britain.gif I'll have you know!

Heh... I don't care really, but just wanted to clarify that. Appropriate for the ongoing discussion smile.gif


"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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gigi wrote:

: I'm a britain.gif I'll have you know!

Whoops. My bad!


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Sorry Matt,

it's a thing I have that I don't reveal personal details on the internet. Not because of security (although this would be a valid reason) but because I appreciate a certain anonymity that the internet affords me. You are who you want to be, and in a chat room such as this I appreciate not being able to be pinned down too much. Things such as location, job, hobbies, creed and denomination, etc. lose their importance and you can discuss ideas outside of an all-defining context.

Pretentious, I know. Still, I like the spirit of the idea. Besides, adds a little mystery... I rather appreciate that you can't track IP addresses on this forum.

*shrugs* just me.


"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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Well that's fine I suppose, its good how the site lets you be as known or unkown as you want.

That said - aren't we only having this conversation because you've already revealed a major part of your identity - your nationality?

Matt

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