FIRST SHOWING: Ocean’s Thirteen director Steven Soderbergh’s latest project is a set of two films shot back-to-back about Che Guevara titled individually The Argentine and Guerrilla. Both are premiering at the Cannes Film Festival this month under the name Che as a 268 minute presentation.
The Argentine: On November 26, 1956, Fidel Castro sails to Cuba with eighty rebels. One of those rebels is Ernesto “Che” Guevara, an Argentine doctor who shares a common goal with Fidel Castro — to overthrow the corrupt dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Che proves indispensable as a fighter, and quickly grasps the art of guerrilla warfare. As he throws himself into the struggle, Che is embraced by his comrades and the Cuban people. This film tracks Che’s rise in the Cuban Revolution, from doctor to commander to revolutionary hero.
Guerrilla: After the Cuban Revolution, Che is at the height of his fame and power. Then he disappears, re-emerging incognito in Bolivia, where he organizes a small group of Cuban comrades and Bolivian recruits to start the great Latin American Revolution. The story of the Bolivian campaign is a tale of tenacity, sacrifice, idealism, and of guerrilla warfare that ultimately fails, bringing Che to his death. Through this story, we come to understand how Che remains a symbol of idealism and heroism that lives in the hearts of people around the world. MORE
VARIETY: No doubt it will be back to the drawings board for “Che,” Steven Soderbergh’s intricately ambitious, defiantly nondramatic four-hour, 18-minute presentation of scenes from the life of revolutionary icon Che Guevara. If the director has gone out of his way to avoid the usual Hollywood biopic conventions, he has also withheld any suggestion of why the charismatic doctor, fighter, diplomat, diarist and intellectual theorist became and remains such a legendary figure; if anything, Che seems diminished by the way he’s portrayed here. Originally announced as two separate films, “The Argentine” and “Guerrilla,” to be released separately, the film was shown as one picture, with intermission, under the title “Che” (although neither this nor any other credits appeared onscreen) in its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Neither half feels remotely like a satisfying stand-alone film, while the whole offers far too many aggravations for its paltry rewards. Scattered partisans are likely to step forward, but the pic in its current form is a commercial impossibility, except on television or DVD. MORE
THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE: As a lock of Che Guevara’s hair along with photos, captured documents, intelligence intercepts, and original fingerprints relating to the capture, execution and secret burial of the Argentine-born revolutionary sold at auction for $100,000, the National Security Archive posted declassified U.S. documents relating to his death 40 years ago this month. The macabre collection of memorabilia purchased yesterday by a lone bidder was compiled by a Cuban exile CIA operative named Gustavo Villoldo, who was tasked to help capture Guevara and, after his execution by the Bolivian military, secretly bury him in the middle of the night. Before Guevara’s hands were cut off, Villoldo helped fingerprint his corpse, and a “death mask” — a plaster cast of his face — was made as proof that the real Che had been captured and killed. The covert operative also clipped a portion of Che’s beard as a memento of the CIA’s triumph over Latin America’s most famous revolutionary. MORE