[Marxism] RE The Motorcycle Diaries

Ilyenkova at aol.com Ilyenkova at aol.com
Wed Nov 10 23:09:09 MST 2004

In his review of 'The Motorcycle Diaries' Louis writes:

>Far worse in terms of pandering to a movie audience's expectations is 
Salles's regrettable decision to spice up Che's narrative with events 
that never took place. For example, in one scene that takes place in a 
provincial Chilean city, Che and Alberto are literally chased out of 
town by an angry mob of Chilean men after Che makes a pass at one of 
their wives. It might be forgivable if this worked cinematically. It 
doesn't even succeed on these terms, but comes across as an art movie 
version of "Dude, Where's My Car?"<

For the record this scene actually is recorded verbatim in the Diaries 
(Verso, 42-43). You can look it up. So you really didn't like the film, except for 
the cinematography.

If  'all society really were a school' in the practical-critical sense meant 
by Che, audiences for  'The Motorcycle Diaries' would be reading the Diaries 
(recently republished  by Verso with an introduction by Che's father) before or 
after seeing the film. Hopefully viewers, especially younger ones, will be 
prompted by Salles's young Che, to do just that. If so, they certainly will find 
a much harder-edged, politically savvy 23 year old than presented by the 
sweetly dreamy Gael Garcia Bernal. A young Antonio Banderas (didn't he play Che 
before in Evita?) may have projected the
edgy volubility you associate with Che. But the film more than compensates 
for this departure from characterological realism. The casting of Bernal and the 
innocence he conveys functions to set the young Guevara's change in 
consciousness in sharpest relief.  Obviously, Salles wanted to accentuate the magnitude 
of  the change that occurs in a privileged Argentinian physician who goes on 
to change history itself. 

The film works especially well precisely because Ernesto isn't yet Che as we 
know him ('Me, the man I once was.'). Salles's cinematography of the Andean 
and Amazonian landscape evokes the restlessness of  youth struggling with the 
paradox of a world both achingly beautiful and socially ugly. The film makes any 
viewer feel that paradox. At the end Salles's text tells us exactly how the 
perpetually horny Alberto and the asthmatic, quasi-mystical Ernesto each 
resolved that paradox. 

Bernal may not have been  the historical Che you know. But the film, like 'On 
the Road' that you compare it to, is perhaps most directed at young people. 
It pulls Che down from the mural wall and off the tee shirt and makes him a 
human being who challenges us with his compassion, ferocity of will, capacity for 
outrage and yes, his sense of humor.

It deserves a wide audience and I think a bit more generosity from reviewers.


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