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Che - Part 2: Guerrilla

Guevara's final campaign in Bolivia in re-visited

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The second half of Steven Soderbergh's two-part bio-feature on Ernesto "Che" Guevara continues to downplay the heroic myth. In 1966, Guevara (a compelling Benicio Del Toro) secretly left Cuba for Bolivia, where he hoped to lead the poor peasants in an armed overthrow of the government. The film hunkers down for a year in the mountains with Guevara and his increasingly beleaguered rebels, where the narrative is often dull or scattered. Yet, in the final 45 minutes, Soderbergh, after lurking in the woods of earnest dogma, reaches for more conventional, and entertaining, filmmaking. The lengthy final stand-off in the forest between Guevara's few compadres and Bolivian soldiers is shot intimately, nearly at ground level. Whereas previously, such long sequences of confused silence and inaction frustrated, here the same narrative murkiness effectively underscores how a decisive moment -- Guevara and his exported revolution have failed -- transpired with a pathetic banality. Che is one of those films that has "deeply personal project" stamped all over it, and while it's not a total success, it's certainly an interesting experience. Soderbergh has swung for the fences, but it would seem his ideals -- demythologizing Che, eschewing the bio-pic mold, choosing "reality" over plot or emotional hooks -- have made Che a nutritious if flavorless dose of movie-making rather than a tasty, fulfilling platter of engaging cinema. In some English, and Spanish, with subtitles. Part 1: The Argentine, continues through Thu., March 26. Part 2: Guerrilla starts Fri., March 27. Harris

 

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