Saturday, January 03, 2009

Movie Review

Che: Part One (18)

The director makes no concessions to the audience in his latest picture - this is a no-holds barred account of the life and times of the Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara that pulls no punches in its depiction of the insanity of war, politics and hallucinogenic drugs.

Right from the start, the viewer is pitched into the Cuban revolutionaries' march on Havana. Liberties are taken - I believe that Guevara and Castro may have made their triumphant entrance in a small tank, and not in a 1971 Cadillac Eldorado loaded with mescaline, ether and blotter acid - but from the moment the audience sees the giant bat attack, Che holds the viewer tight in its vice-like grip.

Seldom can the vibrant heart of Havana have been depicted so garishly, as we see the protagonists liberate the city's mob-owned casinos for the Cuban people. We are shown the depravity of capitalism itself, as represented by a riot of visual metaphors, from the melting and blending fixtures and fittings to the depiction of the Cuban bourgoisie as giant lizards. In a move that may surprise some of his many devotees, Guevara himself is at one point shown as a giant, horned demon with a hairy back covered in tits.

It is to the director's credit that he doesn't dwell on dense political theory, instead lightening the tone with whimsical asides and extended LSD and vodka binges. Benicio Del Toro is electric as the scotch-quaffing, chain-smoking drug-fiend Guevara, but the real star of the show is Johnny Depp as Fidel Castro, shorn of his trademark beard and cigar, running only on adrenaline and cocaine, trying to hold the revolution together even as the weasels are closing in.

Unrelenting and never less than hilarious, this is a savage journey into the heart of the revolutionary dream.

*****
Dir. T. Gilliam
Runtime - 118 mins.

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