A 2021 Film Journey: Day 121
As with last night, I once again looked to my criterion shelf for tonight’s viewing. More than picking a film at random tonight, I wanted to acknowledge the importance of the holiday with my choice. My initial inclination was to allow myself a re-watch and revisit Jacques Demy’s workers strike musical Une Chambre en Ville (1982). That film is a personal pick of a hidden gem and I was close to putting it on when an obvious alternative caught my eye.
Che: Part One and Che: Part Two (2008, Dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Both IMDB and Letterboxd consider each half of the four-and-a-half-hour biopic about the Marxist revolutionary to be separate films, and while I am going to be combining them for the sake of discussion, I do find the separation to be useful. Each part tells a somewhat self-contained story of a South American revolution under the guidance of the Argentinian Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Benicio Del Toro). Che: Part One focuses on his work liberating Cuba and helping to install Fidel Castro (Demián Bichir) in the 1950s while Che: Part Two looked at his attempt at another revolution in Bolivia which led to his capture and execution.
The interplay between the two films is intriguing. The film was originally in development by Terrence Malick who wanted to create a film exclusively focusing on Guevara’s attempted revolution in Bolivia. After financing fell through Malick left the project and Soderbergh took over. One of Soderbergh’s first decisions was that Guevara’s time in Bolivia would be better served with background and thus the first part was created to support the now second part. Considering that part one was created as a supplemental piece, it is interesting that part one is significantly more entertaining and a more artistic use of filmmaking.
While both films chronicle a revolution that marked a period of Guevara’s life, they do so in unique ways. Che: Part Two is somewhat indistinguishable from any war film. Politics and economics may take a more front seat approach than in more American focused wars, but the cinematic language is the same. It tells a conventional chronologic narrative. Conversely, Che: Part One jumps years between Guevara’s time in the revolution before Castro rose to power and his time as an ambassador for Cuba. These are as easily distinguishable with the revolution shot in color and time as an ambassador in black and white. By piecing together the first film non linearly, Soderbergh develops more nuanced themes and results in a more entertaining watch.