“Che”: Frustrating? Si! Worthy? Si!

I spent most of today in the capacious Ziegfeld cinema in New York, watching Steven Soderbergh‘s movie “Che” — starring Benicio del Toro (pictured) — at a New York Film Festival press screening. The movie unfurled in two parts, each 131 minutes. The first film takes the revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Fidel Castro, and their fellow insurgents through the guerilla war in the Cuban countryside from 1956 to 1959, when they finally succeeded in overthrowing the dictator Fulgencio Batista. The second part is devoted to a Che-led guerilla campaign in Bolivia in 1967, resulting in his death. In its rush to present its subject as a kind of humanist hero, the picture neglects what took place between the timeframe of its sections: the brutality that occurred as the revolutionary movement became a dictatorship. Whatever its simplistic ideology, the movie is visually fascinating and no one should discount the chances of del Toro in the Oscar race for Best Actor. (He won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival this past May.) The movies’ running time isn’t necessarily a handicap for Oscar voters, who will watch them on videotape in the privacy of their home-entertainment cocoons. For more about “Che,” click here.

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