By Kyle | September 8, 2008
Why was I eating breakfast at 7:45 this morning, hours before my usual wakey-wake? Because at 8:30 I was waiting in line to see “Che,” a four and a half hour monstrosity from Steven Soderbergh and starring Benicio del Toro, who will probably get an Oscar nomination for the film.
Don’t get me wrong–I loved Warren Beatty’s Communist epic “Reds.” Though Beatty is an avowed lefty, half the film is about the corruption and authoritarianism that quickly took over the Bolshevik revolution, and anyway, the film is visually grand (the scene just before the intermission, in which the Revolution is won to the strains of “The Internationale,” is as magnificent to watch as it must have been for John Reed to live through) as well as a thrilling love story.
But “Che,” which must be the most fevered piece of Communist propaganda since Sergei Eisenstein’s days, makes Ernesto Guevera look like Florence Nightingale + Abraham Lincoln times Jesus Christ. My senior colleague Lou Lumenick calls it “The Passion of the Che.” Everywhere you look, Che is healing the sick, advancing the cause of women, telling his men not to look out for him and standing up for the rights of the peasantry, who nevertheless turn Judas on him. (Damn peasants: they’re like Kansans or something. Never vote the correct way.) In one scene, Che insists, “This is a revolution, not a coup,” in another he insists that there be no violence amongst his armed guerillas (reminded me of “You can’t fight in here–this is the war room”), in still another, after his starving men take some corn from a farm, he insists on leaving money for the farmer, who isn’t there.
There are more scenes about agrarian land reform (many) than there are about the taking of Havana by the Communists (zero) or about what Communism actually did in practice as opposed to theory (zero). An alien watching this film could be forgiven for thinking that Communism was this neat new ideology about lifting up the underclass that was never fully put into practice because of corrupt dictators. To top it all, the entire film has a dreary, ponderous, quasi-documentary feel that takes dry material and pounds the color out of it. It’s the anti-“Reds.” “Che” has the excitement of the Marx-Engels reader without the conciseness.
I guarantee this $65 million film will flop.