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How to prove you formed a whole opinion after watching half a film.

[ 1 ] January 27, 2010 |

Over at Big Hollywood, a man who only watched the first half of Steven Soderbergh’s Che declares the whole film a work of propaganda. You can tell he only watched the first half because he thinks the whole film is about Cuba—the second half, sometimes called Guerilla, covers events that took place in Bolivia and, more importantly, undercuts the romantic image of Che cultivated in The Argentine, the part of the film devoted to the Cuban revolution. Did Soderbergh omit the years between the Cuban and Bolivian insurgencies—years in which Che grossly mismanaged the Cuban economy, openly insulted the Soviet Union, and failed to exploit the revolutionary potential in the Congo? He did; however, he did so for narrative reasons, not political ones.

Guerilla documents the abject failure of the great revolutionary to accomplish anything in the Bolivian wilds. Che and his dwindling forces spend the entire movie walking in circles—about an hour in, his forces are divided and compelled to walk in circles looking for each other, as if their mothers never told them that should they become separated from her at the mall, they should stay put and let her find them. The already leisurely pace of The Argentine slows to an appropriately Jarmuschian crawl, as it allows the viewer to realize that, as in Dead Man, the protagonist died in the first five minutes of the film and all this pointless wandering through desolate lands is designed to get him to understand as much. Anyone who watches the whole film would know this, but then again, no one who had paid attention to either half of the film would ever write:

[I]n those two years of “ferocious” battles, the total casualties on BOTH sides actually ran to 182. New Orleans has an annual murder rate DOUBLE that. The famous “Battle of Santa Clara,” that Soderbergh depicts as a Caribbean Stalingrad, claimed five casualties total—on BOTH sides.

I’m not touching the reference to New Orleans, and will instead focus on the author’s claim that Soderbergh filmed this battle like “a Caribbean Stalingrad,” i.e. as the equivalent of a battle in which an estimated 2.7 million soldiers died, because nearly every casualty in Soderbergh’s film was an established character. If anything, the film creates the impression that eleven of Che’s closest friends were killed during the entire revolution. Then again, I’m not even sure why I’m paying any attention to someone who would write:

Seems to me her tragic story makes ideal fodder for Oprah, for all those women’s magazines, for all those butch professorettes of “Women’s Studies,” for a Susan Sarandon or Sandra Bullock role.

Because honestly, if you write the phrase “butch professorettes,” you’re clearly confused as to what stereotype you’re trying to convey: “These masculine fairies, I mean, feminine meatheads, I mean—I mean—I mean.” No sir, you mean no more than your words signify, and they’re all sound and fury.