Oooh, a film about a filthy Commie, how charming!
Screenplay By: Peter Buchman
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
My pithy opening line really shouldn’t be taken seriously. I’m not much of a political man, and that does present a couple of problems when it comes to Che: Part One. First, I’ve never concerned myself much with the life of Ernetso Guevara. I know what I learned in school, and that’s about all I feel the need to know. More problematic is my lack of interest in Che’s politics, or more specifically the politics of Che: Part One. I can hear some of the truth in what Che is saying, but he’s also full of insane amounts of bullshit. Such is the way with any politician, and I have very little interest in hearing politicians spew lies and half-truths. That’s just as true for revolutionaries as it is for American men and women in the seat of our government. My lack of interest in Che as a historical figure and politics as a whole immediately put Che: Part One in the position of having to work to get me into what it was doing.
In trying to garner my attention and interest Peter Bucham constructed a screenplay that flits throughout time. It scurries back and forth between 1960s New York and 1950s Cuba. This approach could have worked perfectly fine, and it is in alignment with Steven Soderbergh’s penchant for filming different locales/eras in different ways during a film. Unfortunately the way that Che: Part One deals with its narrative is to hope that I will know who Che is as a historical figure and that I have no real interest in the people that surround him. Why would I care about the members of his guerilla force who branch out to rape and pillage. They do as such and meet a fitting end for their actions. That’s all I should need to know and that’s all that should be needed to capture my attention. That’s what the film thinks, but that’s not the reality of what happened when I was watching Che: Part One.
I was never interested in the story of Che: Part One. The only person given any time to develop was Che himself, and even then he was woefully underdeveloped. The other characters come and go, sometimes are given a name, and die in situations where I couldn’t begin to feign interest. The situation of the Cuban revolution should be interesting, but the screenplay of Mr. Bucham has rendered it completely un-cinematic and uninteresting. A lot of stuff happens in Che: Part One, and in this case the usage of the word stuff is apropos. Even the actions we are allowed to see are moved past so fast that they are as ambiguous as a word like stuff. With a lack of characters and a lack of interest, Che: Part One certainly failed when it came to engaging me as a viewer.
The one area where I will give Che: Part One some credit is in the direction of Mr. Soderbegh. Or, should I say, I did appreciate the visual style he implemented into the film. Mr. Soderbergh has always been a great visual stylist, and Che: Part One is no different. He makes the film his own visually, with the jungle scenes having deep colors in them while the New York scenes are black and white. His visual approach manages to get across the idea of the liveliness of war versus the dead bargaining that goes on in politics. But, for as much as I like the visuals of Mr. Soderbergh, he was unable to do much with the screenplay and that is why I can’t get behind his direction full force.
I’m hoping that Che: Part Two will have more to offer than Che: Part One did, but I’m not keeping those hopes too high. Che: Part One is a cold film, an uninteresting film, and a film without any sort of momentum. This biopic moves from moment to moment during the Cuban revolution and offers nothing more than a classroom textbook look at the figure of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. I expect much more from a Steven Soderbergh film, and that’s why Che: Part One is such a disappointing film.