11.14.2004

A Che!

Yesterday, my dad took Nick and me to see The Motorcycle Diaries. First of all, what's up with a matinee that costs $7.25? No wonder we never go to the movies. At least they let me bring in my coffee from Peet's despite the sign forbidding outside food and drinks. Then again this was a small, semi-independent (a.k.a. "arthouse") theater, so the staff was semi-human and not alienated corporate drones, so the ticket prices became a bit more palatable.

But on to the movie.

It's the story of 23-year-old Ernesto "future Che" Guevara going on the ultimate motorcycle road trip from his hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina to Caracas, Venezuela, via Chile, Peru, and Colombia. Initially, this basic concept didn't sound all that appealing to me. Even though Che is such a charismatic and glamorous figure, he's always struck me as too serious and one-dimensional--a gung-ho revolutionary with no sense of humor... This impression was not solely based on his famous poster-boy visage, but on my travels to Cuba and consequent above-average exposure to his writings, photographs, and personal history. So I wasn't sure this was going to be an entertaining movie.

And "entertaining" isn't how I would describe it, but I loved almost everything about the film anyway: the dark, haunting soundtrack; Gael Garcia Bernal's brooding performance; the setting in old-fashioned Latin American society, before international highways, satellite TV, supermarkets (I especially loved the party scenes, because the music was almost always live and very lively); the subtle, quiet, utterly poignant scenes where they meet various indigenous peoples throughout the countryside--those were definitely the best part of the movie for me. It so beautifully and tangibly helped me understand why this young Argentinian doctor became the gung-ho socialist roaming from country to country fomenting revolution. The scene I recall most vividly is unexpected (only because nothing actually happens): It's when Ernesto and his friend are walking through the Andes, and they pass a group of native peoples with a llama. Maybe it was the music, or the preceding scene... I don't quite understand it now, but this flash of an image really stuck with me.

Go see it!