since the 4+ hour "che" premiered (screened in 2 parts with an intermission) at the ny film festival last fall, i've wanted to see it. i wasn't able to see it at either of the 2 festival screening and, when it was widely released, wasn't able to make the 5 hour commitment to see what was called the "roadshow" edition (both parts). now "che" is, as planned, screened as two separate - but connected - films. better still, yesterday, ifc started to air the film on cable!
why all this preamble? well since it is practically impossible for me to sit thru 4+ hours of any film (much less a mere 2+ hour part), i got hold of "the motorcycle diaries" from netflix as sort of a "che" light - prequel, if you will. the film was so interesting that now i'm even more committed to the idea of the watching the full blown "che" biopic. thanks to ifc on demand, it will happen a lot sooner than it would have (i.e. waiting for the dvd release).
but, back to "the motorcycle diaries." ernesto ("che") guevara, long before he became the international marxist revolutionary we're familiar with (together with his equally iconic visage on posters that dotted - and probably still dot - millions of college dorm rooms), was a medical student in argentina. he and his close friend alberto granado set off, initially, on a motorcycle trip across south america. eventually their already old and battered motorcycle gives out and the continue the trip on foot.
the bulk of the film is taken from che's own diaries, as he documented their journey. the film is worth watching just for the visually stunning cinematography. their travels transport us from one panoramic landscape to another. it gives a truly literal dimension to the term "road" movie. while they don't appear to make any profound personal insights - or engage in any serious dialogue - watching the two interact across the thousands of miles is never uninteresting.
the two men are perfect foils for each other - with che the serious, earnest (excuse the pun, just plain irresistible) one and alberto the bon vivant - always on the look out for kicks (food, drink and women - in no particular order). by the end of their trip - which included a stint as volunteers at a leper colony - it's sad to see them separate. the written coda that flashes along with the credits together with the final image of the film ties it together beautifully.
if you can, check it out. in the meantime, here's the trailer: