Drooling on the Pillow

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Young Doctor Guevara 

Last year Lane was on the SAG nominating committee for the Oscars and, as a result we got to see, probably for the first time, pretty much all of the nominees and a number of films that didn't make it. All for free. You can go to special SAG screenings, but most of them are sent to you in DVDs. I don't know if its the same this year - apparently they're on red alert for piracy - but my friend Ian is on the committee this year and last night he took me to see a screening of Motorcycle Diaries, the new Che bioflick.

It's not a hagiography, quite. It's more a bildungsroman of a sweet young liberal minded medical student who on a romantic voyage across the continent (the movie understandibly conflates two such voyages) comes to certain realizations. What those realizations were is somewhat vague, which is just as well because if the movie let us know what was going on in that pretty little head it would be a big mood-buster. In the movie, about the most radical thought that escapes Gael Garcia Bernal's pouty lips is that all of South America is, like, one country. He seems very bummed that the doctors are on one side of the Amazon and the lepers are on the other side. He just can't stand that. Beyond that, he writes letters to his mother, quotes Neruda and brings puppies to pretty girls.

The problem with the movie is that this young man did not grow up to be Che Guevara. In fact, the record shows that by the age of 24, this young man already was Che and if this questing, humorous, preternaturally honest, struggling-with-conscience fellow ever existed, it had to be a fair number of years before 1952.

That said, it's a pretty movie. I've always dreamed of doing what he did (the voyage part, not the psychopathic stuff that came later) and South America is a magnificent backdrop to the story. Bernal is fine, but Rodrigo de la Serna as Che's friend Alberto Granado is outstanding. An extremely useful character actor.

The less you know about Che, the more you'll enjoy the movie.
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