Saturday, November 06, 2004


How Ernesto Got His ‘Che’ Back

Director: Walter Salles
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna, Mia Maestro, Ricardo Diaz Mourelle

Tagline: Let the world change you... and you can change the world

A figure as iconic Che Guevara deserves a biopic which is inspirational and respectful but which serves to uncanonise the man (it’s a word now). Such films are rather rare (his life has been portrayed in all manner of melodramatic, rock and roll and ultimately unsatisfying ways), but The Motorcycle Diaries gives him the history he deserves, in this brilliant adaptation of his early life in his own words, the anti-‘Mein Kampf’ if you will.
This is largely down to great acting from the two leads as Ernesto and Alberto. The two both suffer from a lack of money and an assortment of minor travel injuries as well as maddening sexual tantalisation, but it is ‘The Mighty One’, their wire-supported shitheap of a bike, who suffers most, eventually needing euthanising. Alberto grieves, but Ernesto is already preoccupied with the number of people he’s started to notice around him who have real problems. The many contrasts on screen, the ordered and beautiful Cuzco against the fungus-like Lima, great injustices against the honesty of their victims and the material against the moral, are always clear but never patronising.
There a little artistic license and, naturally, the omission of several key events of the book, but the storytelling is free of floppy romance and retains a fiercely honest spirit. This is largely emphasised by incidents reminding us how uncool our heroes are, be it through debilitating asthma, inappropriate dancing or just how goofy the two look together on their motorcycle.
The average road movie is an excuse to get from one interesting set piece to the next, but the greats are the ones where the feel of a whole voyage outlasts its moodswings to leave a steady impression on the viewer. This is what separates an onscreen journey from a mere trip. Unlike Apocalypse Now though, the whole thing doesn’t implode into irredeemable melancholy, instead displaying both its epic qualities and its necessary smallness with ease.


Blogger Dude said...

Do they stick in the bit where he has a bad night of the shits and throws it out the window?

9:36 AM  
Blogger cheven said...

No, but you can sense the dysentery...

7:31 AM  
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