Home Page  
 
 

SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 3 Discs
FEATURES
  • High-definition digital transfers of Che: Part One and Che: Part Two, supervised and approved by director Steven Soderbergh, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentaries on both films, featuring Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
  • Making "Che," a new documentary about the film's production, featuring interviews with Soderbergh, producer Laura Bickford, actor-producer Benicio del Toro, and writers Peter Buchman and Ben van der Veen
  • New interviews with Cuban historians as well as participants in the 1958 Cuban Revolution and Che's 1967 Bolivian campaign
  • Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailers
  • More

Che


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Demian Bichir, Julia Ormond, Franka Potente, Lou Diamond Phillips, Matt Damon
2008 | 261 Minutes | Licensor: IFC Films

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $49.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #496
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: January 19, 2010
Review Date: January 15, 2010

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

Share:

SYNOPSIS

Far from a conventional biopic, Steven Soderbergh's film about Che Guevara is a fascinating exploration of the revolutionary as icon. Daring in its refusal to make the socialist leader into an easy martyr or hero, Che paints a vivid, naturalistic portrait of the man himself (with a stunning, Cannes-award-winning performance by Benicio del Toro), from his overthrow of the Batista dictatorship to his 1964 United Nations trip to the end of his short life. Originally released in two parts, the first a kaleidoscopic view of the Cuban revolution and the second an all-action dramatization of Che's failed campaign in Bolivia. Che is presented here in its complete form.

Forum members rate this film 7.7/10

 

Discuss the film and DVD here   


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Steven Soderbergh’s Che in a hefty 3-disc set, presenting both parts of the film over the first two dual-layer discs. The first film is presented in the aspect ratio of about 2.39:1 while the second part is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Both transfers have been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Soderbergh shot both films using the RED One Digital Camera, which captures a high resolution image of about 4520x2540, over 5x better then the 1920x1080 resolution presented on Blu-ray (if my math is correct that is.) Since it would have to be downscaled for Blu-ray it would obviously have to be significantly downscaled for standard DVD. Because of this I wasn’t expecting an image anywhere near what the Blu-ray edition offered but I have to say I was still a bit disappointed.

Some sequences in the first part were shot in 16mm and on the DVD they look fine. Grain is present and looks fairly natural. Some 16mm sequences are black and white and they also look good with decent gray levels.

As a whole the transfer is quite sharp and detail is surprisingly good, but the image has more obvious artifacts than I would have expected. Darker sequences from portions of the film shot with the RED present quite a bit of noise in the blacks, and the sequences can also look a little fuzzy and there’s some mild edge-enhancement noticeable in spots across both films, though it was a tad worse in the second part. But colours look exceptional with excellent saturation.

Since the films were primarily shot with the digital camera there’s no damage or marks, even the 16mm segments looking quite clean. It still looks pretty good and many will be pleased with it, but considering the source I guess I was expecting a somewhat better transfer.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

Screen Capture
Che: Part One

Screen Capture
Che: Part One

Screen Capture
Che: Part One

Screen Capture
Che: Part One

Screen Capture
Che: Part One

Screen Capture
Che: Part One

Screen Capture
Che: Part One

Screen Capture
Che: Part One

Screen Capture
Che: Part One

Screen Capture
Che: Part Two

Screen Capture
Che: Part Two

Screen Capture
Che: Part Two

Screen Capture
Che: Part Two

Screen Capture
Che: Part Two

Screen Capture
Che: Part Two

Screen Capture
Che: Part Two

Screen Capture
Che: Part Two

Screen Capture
Che: Part Two

AUDIO

Both films present Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks. The first film presents two tracks, one being the original theatrical track which had Benecio Del Toro’s Spanish voiceovers simultaneously translated into English, and the other being the straight Spanish narration with subtitles. You cannot manually switch the subtitles while the film plays because of this. While the “English” track was the theatrical track, Criterion presents the “Spanish” track as the default and I would make the assumption that this is Soderbergh’s preferred track.

I was surprised by how active the tracks are on here. As a whole they’re both fairly quiet films, but there are some spectacular action set pieces and the surround system comes to life during them. Gunshots and explosions fill the environment with some very strong splits and bass. Sound quality is excellent, the track also presenting some great range. During the quieter moments voices are clear and articulate and the films’ scores subtly fill the environment.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion pretty much devotes the first two discs to their respective films while placing a good chunk of the supplements on the third dual-layer disc. The first disc, which presents Che: Part One, has a couple of supplements, starting with an audio commentary by John Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. While it’s apparent Anderson is watching the film he doesn’t necessarily always follow it. In fact he’s more interested in giving a history of Che, Cuba, and other members of the Cuban revolution, including Fidel Castro. He doesn’t seem completely pleased with the film, expressing disappointment that it skips certain areas of Che’s life and the lead up to the revolution, and fills in these areas for us. He expands on certain aspects of the film, getting into more detail with the U.S.’s concerns and Cuba’s relationship with the USSR, and also works to paint a more detailed picture of Che. What’s incredible about it is that the track has very little dead space, Anderson managing to keep going throughout the entire length of the film, amazingly never repeating himself and keeping it interesting. I’m not completely sure what he feels about the film as a whole, with me getting the idea he might be somewhat cold to it, but it’s actually a great and intriguing track that probably paints a better and more accurate picture of Che.

The first disc then concludes with a theatrical trailer.

Disc two, which presents Che: Part Two, comes with another audio commentary by author John Lee Anderson who delivers a track similar to the one he gave for the first part. He talks a bit about Che’s life during the time period between the two films, revealing a nastier side to Che than what’s presented in either film, and then talks about specifics involving Bolivia at the time, including the abuse of the miners. He also touches on Tania and the suspicions of an affair between her and Che (which he doubts is true and offers his reasons as to why that is) and also offers up explanations as to why the Bolivian campaign didn’t work whereas the Cuban one did. It’s similar to the first track, with Anderson managing to fill out the entire length of it with very little dead space and keeping it interesting.

All of the remaining supplements are found on disc three.

First up on the disc is a making-of entitled Making Che, which runs about 50-minutes. It’s a talking heads piece featuring Soderbergh, Benecio Del Toro, producer Laura Bickford, and writers Peter Buchman and Benjamin van der Veen. I was a little surprised that this has been a project that’s been trying to get off the ground for more than a decade (well, I guess that’s not too surprising) and I was also surprised that Bickford, who didn’t know much about Che, initially only wanted to make Che because she thought he looked like Benecio Del Toro (as a reason to make a movie I’m not too sure on that.) Soderbergh was brought in a bit later and was on and off of the project, and director Terrence Malick at one point was considered as director. At times it sounds like it was a rather scattershot production with many changes even as filming had already begun. It was initially supposed to be only about Che in Bolivia (which is the second part of the film) but Soderbergh wanted to start with the Cuban Revolution. When he felt a 160-180 minute film wouldn’t be good enough, it was decided to make two films. He then wanted to use the RED camera, which was still a prototype, and that offered another assortment of issues, though did make some aspects of the tight 78-day shoot a little easier. There’s discussion about the script process, Soderbergh explains why the film’s are framed differently, and then it concludes with some discussion on the Roadshow edition and the issues with finding a distributor (it was ready to be distributed just as many independent distributors were shutting down.) Mixed in with some behind-the-scenes material it’s a rather fascinating making-of, made more interesting by the fact it sounds like the production was going to collapse at any second.

Next are 10 deleted scenes running 15-minutes specific only to the first part of the film with an optional audio commentary by Soderbergh which you must access using the audio button on your remote. It’s easy to see why some scenes were cut, either coming off repetitive or adding very little, but there are some good scenes in here, including the trial of Sardiña and a bit about people who impersonated the rebels. Soderbergh explains why the scenes were cut and points out the ones that were the more difficult ones to exclude. It also sounds like there was still a lot of material cut that’s not presented here.

Next up are 4 deleted scenes from the second part of the film, running 5 and a half minutes. A couple of the scenes are interesting but I’d recommend just watching them with Soderbergh’s optional commentary track where he again explains why he cut these scenes, this time it sounding like he just couldn’t find an appropriate place for them. But again it does sound like there’s even more deleted material for the second film that is not shown here.

End of a Revolution is a 25-minute documentary from 1968 made by Brian Moser right after Che’s execution in Bolivia. It begins with footage of Che’s body and then moves on to the conditions of the peasants’ lives in Bolivia, paying special attention to the country’s miners, and then the trial of Regis Debray, an associate of “Che” Guevara’s who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for that association (he would eventually be released in 1970.) There’s even footage of the American military who were in Bolivia to train the army in fighting the resistance and possibly capturing Che. It’s an excellent inclusion for this set, the sort of supplement I’d expect Criterion to include, offering more context for the film.

Interviews From Cuba offers interviews with a couple of historians and various people who were involved in either the Cuban Revolution and Che’s campaign in Bolivia. Divided into two sections the first part, called “Participants” has interviews (conducted by Del Toro and Bickford) with those who knew Che, including brothers Enrique and Rogelio Alevedo, Richard Alarcon, Leonardo Tamayo Nuñez, and Harry Villegas. Between them they talk about Che, first meeting him and their impressions of him, recall stories from battles, the hierarchy of the rebels, and even touch on the Cuban media at the time. Nuñez recalls when Che disguised himself to head to Bolivia (portrayed somewhat in the film, though they skipped one of the more painful aspects) and there’s a bit about the fighting in Bolivia. The second part found under “Historians” has historians Mario Mencía and Herberto N. Acosta talk a bit about the lead up to the Cuban Revolution and offers more details about Che and Fidel’s planning and their friendship. Together the interviews (running 25-minutes and 12-minutes respectively) help place the film in a better context and offer some decent firsthand accounts from those involved.

Che and the Digital Cinema Revolution is a rather good documentary about the RED Camera, the use of digital photography, and its advantages in filmmaking. Soderbergh talks about his insistence at using the camera and despite some of the early flaws he was determined to make it work. The key advantage is that it could take a high-res image yet was incredibly compact compared to conventional film equipment. He had had a desire to film in 65mm but the equipment would have been too much for the condition of the shoot (and instead of lugging around film cans they only had to carry a few harddrives, laptops, and 237 8GB flash cards.) This was also a test run for the camera and employees from RED were either there on the shoot or on call back home in the case that something went wrong (at first the camera would indicate it was overheating and eventually it was discovered the heat censor was in the wrong place.) Many advantages on top of portability are pointed out, specifically editing, which could be done on a laptop on the drive to location or back to the hotel. Security was also improved upon. It’s a very technical doc but quite fascinating only hampered by graphics constantly being thrown across the screen coming off more “MTV” in style at times. I’m guessing this was Criterion’s attempt at lifting the doc above their typical talking-heads presentation.

The set the concludes with a booklet containing an essay by Amy Taubin, You also get a poster for Che replicating the DVD cover art.

While I thought Anderson’s commentary was a great inclusion I must confess a certain disappointment that Soderbergh or even Del Toro didn’t provide a track of their own. But this might be best explained by the two documentaries on here where Soderbergh, admittedly excited about the new technology he used for the film, seems a little jaded about filmmaking; there’s a lot of mention about the short attention spans of audiences (Del Toro calling this the “iPhone era”) and how that is affecting the distribution and funding of films which I think leads him to question the relevance of cinema today. While the supplements as a whole are great and cover their subject matter and the film so well, I have to admit coming away from this set on a little bit of a down note.

8/10

CLOSING

This is certainly an impressive box set for the film from Criterion, and was actually a pleasant surprise overall. As I’ve stated in other reviews for films licenced from IFC I was a little wary of how the releases would turn out, but those worries are ill placed as yet again this DVD is up to Criterion’s usual standards all around. I was a touch let down by the digital transfer, expecting a little better considering the source materials, but all around this is a great package and one that anyone fond of the film should pick up without hesitation.


View packaging for this DVD

Share: 



Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca  




Join our Facebook Group (requires Facebook account)

This site is not affiliated with The Criterion Collection