Fortunately, No One Will Watch It

The Cannes Film Festival is a pretty reliable source of outrage. One of the entrants this year is Steven Soderbergh’s Che, an epic, four and a half hour biography of the Argentine sociopath.


Soderbergh is taking a break from his “Ocean’s Eleven” series, and, as always with Hollywood types, “serious” means “left.” The film, as described on the festival’s web site, comes in two parts and explains why “Che remains a symbol of idealism and heroism that lives in the hearts of people around the world.” Those would be the hearts of those he didn’t murder, I suppose. I’m looking forward to the day when Hollywood makes a movie about the idealism of Charles Manson.

Soderbergh’s biopic sounds hideous even by the standards of the genre. It’s in Spanish; Soderbergh explains:

I hope we’re reaching a time where you go make a movie in another culture, that you shoot in the language of that culture. I’m hoping the days of that sort of specific brand of cultural imperialism have ended.

Speaking of cultural imperialism, do you suppose certain key scenes are shot in Russian? The AP report doesn’t say. The film is said to be loosely structured; the director explains, “The bottom line is we’re just trying to give you a sense of what it was like to hang out around this person.” Actually, I think reactions to Guevara varied widely, depending on whether or not he was trying to kill you. What do you think it would be like to “hang out” with the guy who wrote this?

Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any enemy that falls in my hands! My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. With the deaths of my enemies I prepare my being for the sacred fight and join the triumphant proletariat with a bestial howl!

You may have thought the Charles Manson parallel was an exaggeration. Actually, Guevara killed many more people, with no better reason and in no better state of mental health.

I’d rather have my fingernails pulled out than watch a four and a half hour tribute to Che, but, as if that isn’t bad enough, the director and star say that you really need to see it more than once:

While it may be hard to persuade audiences to see it a first time, the story requires repeated viewings to really appreciate it, said Del Toro, also a producer on the project.

… “I really think that eventually, those people, when they see the movie for the third time, they’ll start seeing things, they’ll start seeing dimensions and angles, maybe a look or a smile or the use of this or a character here and there.

The only way that’s going to happen is if they kidnap people. The way Guevara used to do.

UPDATE: Tomorrow’s New York Times(!) notes that “the expectations surrounding Che could hardly have been higher,” but also points out that “his brutal role in turning a revolutionary movement into a dictatorship goes virtually unmentioned.”


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