Yesterday I was lucky enough to go see Steven Soderbergh's epic tour-de-force Che. Both parts. The director himself was in attendance for the first three Portland screenings, answering questions after the showing, including out on the street where he signed autographs and dealt with the crush of the crowd. I hadn't thought to bring my camera to capture it, but of course I was among the swarming fans.
I also sent Mr. Soderbergh home with a copy of Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?. That is presuming some member of the hotel cleaning staff is not fishing it out of his wastebasket this morning and dusting it off for a trip to Powell's.
It was personally exciting for me to meet him, as I admire the man's facility for telling many different types of stories with equal skill and an ever-evolving style. The fact that he's already completed two films since Che speaks to the his endless drive to create.
Che was an exceptional piece of work. A lot has been said of the audacity of a four-hour, two-part biopic of a controversial revolutionary, told mainly from the subject's point of view and thus sympathetic to his cause. Though I think even that is arguable, this is the hero's journey as tragedy, a man who goes so far off his mark that the ideals of the mission are lost somewhere between setting out on it and having the mission come up short. It's cinema-verite David Lean. The movie didn't feel audacious or overcooked, it's too carefully planned, too naturally paced.
In terms of my recent thoughts of adaptation, Che is an interesting case, and it does come down to that element of point of view. Though the project began by optioning a seminal biography of Guevara, it eventually borrowed its structure and its focus from the two books Che had written himself about Cuba and Bolivia. This made for a spirited post-movie discussion regarding the artistic choices and the criticism that Soderbergh doesn't show enough of Guevara's dark side. Personally, I found it interesting that by peering out of one man's eyes, it didn't allow for or make sense to have extraneous scenes of greater editorializing. The moralizing of others wouldn't make sense in terms of the "character."
Anyway, I'm going to put off any further review than that, fingers crossed that I might eventually get assigned the DVD and get to revisit it. I also just don't really feel like dissecting it too much on paper right now. This was one I was able to go see on my own time and my own dime, and sometimes I like to watch a movie just for me.
Current Soundtrack: various Lily Allen b-sides, compilation tracks, etc.
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All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich