Commentary on Movies and TV by Brian Holcomb

Monday, December 22, 2008


Adapted from the famous T-shirt, Che is director Steven Soderbergh’s massively long, two part movie about professional revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. A much more covert revolutionary himself, Soderbergh has shrewdly designed his career around the Scorsese Model of “one for them, one for me”. So an Oceans caper with George Clooney will be alternated with something more experimental like Bubble or Full Frontal. This one is definitely FOR Soderbergh, questionably for me, and probably NOT for most audiences. At least not those seeking the cinematic equivalent of light reading.

Che tries to transcend its genre but it’s still clearly a biopic. The main problem of biopics is that a film cannot easily present the totality of a person in such a brief running time. Che Guevara presents an even larger problem as he’s become less of a human being in the passing years than a marketable symbol. It’s a great irony that this communist revolutionary would end up being swallowed up by the capitalist consumer culture itself: to be bought, traded, and sold on t-shirts, mugs, hats and posters. There at least 3 different “Che Guevara” personas: The compassionate Dr. Guevara who tended both sick villagers as well as wounded enemy soldiers, the asthmatic soldier who risked his own life over and over for a principle, and the more controversial Che who at times acted as his own judge, jury and executioner. How does a filmmaker present these contradictions onscreen?

To read more of my review for click HERE