Sunday, February 22, 2009

Muriels: Best Picture, 30th Place (tie)

Che (34 points/3 votes)

“Steven Soderbergh’s Che represents the type of uncompromising ambition that always results in heated debate. The fact that Che has polarized audiences since its ‘roadshow’ release in mid December is a testament to its unusual and provocative nature, not only because the subject is a polarizing historical figure, but because the movie itself is a rebellious coup de cinema that dismisses traditional narrative at nearly every turn. Soderbergh and writer Peter Buchman have constructed a film about military campaign and guerilla warfare rather than a detailed account of Guevara’s life and back-story. Part I covers the revolution in Cuba, while Part II deals strictly with Che’s failure in Bolivia. The events are portrayed as non-politically and objectively as possible for what they are, though the exclusion of certain atrocities will certainly inspire debate as to whether the film has a hidden agenda. There’s no doubt Soderbergh’s ambitious presentation is certainly asking a lot from its audience at 4 1/2 hours, but is the film really too detached from any emotional basis? Is it pretentious to take an objective, distant stance on one of the most controversial figures of the 20th Century?

“Soderbergh’s neutral standpoint won’t change anyone's view of Guevara - what you bring to the theater will determine how you feel about the character portrayed on screen. The film isn’t pro-Che or anti-Che, it’s simply a straightforward reenactment of two campaigns with opposite results. Some critics have brought up comparisons to Rossellini’s work, though I think the closest stylistic connection is to Costa-Gavras (Z) or Francesco Rosi (Salvatore Giuliano). Soderbergh’s direction reflects the same attention to detail, the same naturalistic approach to the performances and events. His answer to the sweeping, epic cinemascope glory of Cuba’s Part I is the claustrophobic, suffocating feeling of 1.85:1 photography as the Bolivian campaign becomes dirtier and deadlier in Part II. It’s a daring move, one that could have gone terribly wrong under the direction of a lesser filmmaker. But because of Soderbergh’s masterful craftsmanship and the subtle, contemplative lead performance by Benecio Del Toro (and the excellent supporting work by the rest of the cast), the experience feels real and immediate, provocative and challenging. What would be the point of making it any other way?” ~ Ari Dassa

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