496 Che

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aox
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Re: 496 Che

#251 Post by aox » Thu Jan 14, 2010 1:35 am

Finished the first film, and all of the supplements (excluding the commentary).

The deleted scenes from the first film (mostly from the Cannes cut) are nothing more than a curiosity (about 12 scenes totaling 15 minutes). I can understand why they were cut. They don't add anything to the film really, and Soderbergh correctly points out that anything they convey is conveyed in other scenes and these were redundant or slowed the film down.

The documentary (50 minutes) is pretty interesting. Soderbergh definitely doesn't shy away from his negative memories making this film. I don't think he has any problems with the film itself (he states that this probably should have been a 10-hour miniseries), but the production and aftermath (both critical and financial) seems to have spoiled the entire project for him. Del Toro and the other main producer seem a little more chipper about the experience. The documentary isn't that much in-depth. It just finally puts the history of the production in an appropriate order and offers a little insight into what Soderbergh was trying to achieve and why he chose to focus on what he did (he talks about why he left out the Congo campaign, or the Havana aftermath). I was a little perturbed initially that Soderbergh didn't record a commentary for this (in addition to the historical one that does accompany), but after watching the Documentary on Disc 1 and anticipating the Red Camera Doc on D2 (he actually already talked about some of the Red Camera in the D1 doc), I can understand why he didn't record one. I get the feeling the only thing left to say would be some narration of what is going on, on screen, or anecdotes like, "on this day we were in Spain and Del Toro had a terrible stomach ache" kind of comments.

I watched the first 10 minutes of the second film just to see the image quality which is incredible. I will try to finish it tomorrow night and watch the deleted scenes and the Red Camera documentary. So far, I am very impressed with this box set, and after watching the first film for the second time a year later, I actually did enjoy it even more than when I saw the Road Show Edition premier here in NYC last December (and I loved the first film greatly and thought the second half was just ok). It'll will be interesting for me to see if the second half improves with a repeat viewing.

Looking forward to the historical commentary, though I doubt I will get to it within the next few weeks.

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Re: 496 Che

#252 Post by cdnchris » Sat Jan 16, 2010 4:02 am


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Re: 496 Che

#253 Post by DDillaman » Sat Jan 16, 2010 4:27 am

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.)
While CHE was shot at 4K, it (like most films shot on RED that I know of) was finished at 2K.

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Re: 496 Che

#254 Post by TedW » Sat Jan 16, 2010 4:48 am

Well, 4K is the total res of the camera's sensor, and so is a bit of a misnomer for the anamorphic part (the first movie, isn't it?). This is because you are only using the center part of the panel for the squeeze. I don't know what the res is for that off hand, but it's somewhere between or around 2-3K. Just for miscellaney's sake.

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Re: 496 Che

#255 Post by Finch » Sat Jan 16, 2010 6:53 am

Ed Gonzalez doesn't hold back with cutting remarks about the film - choice quotes:
How many more disasters does Steven Soderbergh have to make before even the Film Comment sect that still rallies behind the man has to admit that he's a better cinematographer than director or thinker? Sixty million dollars down the drain, Che is a fancily shot action film that mostly succeeds at flaunting what Armond White rightfully calls Soderbergh's "limousine liberalism." And yet this monolithic film seems to move people in the same infuriating way Alberto Korda's iconic photograph of Che Guevera has over the past 50 years.
Ouch. On the other hand, he agrees about the sterling A/V:
Okay, so the film is morally and intellectually suspect, but the fashion-minded cinephile who prides austere movie aesthetics above emotion can certainly rejoice: Shot using the new RED camera, Che may be the closest a motion picture shot on video has come to looking like actual film since the Polish brothers' Jackpot. Color saturation, skin tones, and black levels are stellar, with absolutely zero instances of combing, ghosting, or noise, and though some exterior day scenes are so bright it gives the image a blown-out quality, there's no doubt that this was intentional on Soderbergh's part. Audio is equally tops, with all the Cuban accents sounding every bit as robust as the lush sounds of the forest and artillery fire.

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Re: 496 Che

#256 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:10 am

An excellent bemoaning of everything that makes the film worthwhile

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Matango
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Re: 496 Che

#257 Post by Matango » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:53 am

Just finished listening to the commentary on Part One. I'm sure this is the only commentary I have ever heard during which the speaker doesn't have one good thing to say about the film at hand. He doesn't have that many bad things to say either, being as its mostly a talk about Che the man, but what he does say really isn't good at all. The commentary over the closing credits are particularly unflattering, leading the listener to suspect that this a subject that could easily be revisited without much repetition.

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ando
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Re: 496 Che

#258 Post by ando » Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:27 pm

Matango wrote:Just finished listening to the commentary on Part One. I'm sure this is the only commentary I have ever heard during which the speaker doesn't have one good thing to say about the film at hand. He doesn't have that many bad things to say either, being as its mostly a talk about Che the man, but what he does say really isn't good at all.
I disagree. John Lee Anderson, the commentator in question and writer of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, is quite right when he asserts that the film misses the "nuts and bolts", not only of Che's early development as a revolutionary, but of the Cuban revolution in general. In terms of narrative, particularly in regard to the arc of Che's career, I think this is a glaring omission. I've just finished watching the first part of the film and Che's persona is still a bit of a mystery to me. He hasn't left the domain of legend in my mind. But I can bring up YouTube clips of the real Che in various situations (speaking fluent French, flirting with female journalists, delivering surprisingly stirring speeches full of musical cadences, etc.) that provides far more insight into the historical character than noble brute portrayal that the film provides thus far.

That impression may change by the time I finish the second part but for someone largely ignorant of Che and his life Anderson's comments provide an invaluable counterpoint to the film. It's one of the better commentaries I've listened to, quite frankly.

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Re: 496 Che

#259 Post by aox » Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:40 am

I have to concur that Anderson's commentary is somewhat bizarre with its almost contemptuous attitude towards the film (I also have only listened to part 1) for all of the reasons Ando states. Matango and Ando seem to be saying the same thing with a different tone.

I don't think Soderbergh set out to make a 'bio-pic' in the traditional sense here. He seemed to be taking more of a documentary (docudrama) approach to specific events. This particular 'bio-pic' intentionally lacks scope, and I think this is somewhat refreshing despite the fact that the film might have more failure than successes; it is a bold experiment. It's rare to see a bio-pic grounded like this. The only one that comes to mind I have seen is Bound for Glory. It's a pity that Che wasn't more successful, because I really would have liked to have seen the middle film produced and made (set in the Congo).

In terms of expounding on the lack of scope of Che: while I didn't think it was a great film, watching The Motorcycle Diaries before Che is probably pretty helpful to anyone who knows nothing about Che or the background of the rise of Marxism in South America and the islands during the 1950s.

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Re: 496 Che

#260 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:14 pm

The ne plus ultra of combative commentaries would have to be those by the critics for the Matrix films where, after generally praising the virtues of the first film, they waste no time in picking apart all the flaws of the sequels. I don't know which was my favourite part: one of the critics crying out "who cares!" during one of the longer portentous speeches; the giggling over the way that characters repeat lines, and words, of dialogue far too often (after the Morpheus line "What happened happened for a reason and couldn't have happened any other way" they have a discussion about how you shouldn't use the same word more than twice in a sentence); the ungentlemanly comments about Laurence Fishburne's portliness ("I don't think we've had an action hero with such a build since Steven Seagal"); comparing the multi-racial rave scene from Reloaded ("It's filmed like a beer commercial") with the evil Hel club from Revolutions ("They probably just reused the extras from the other scene for this one","I think they're whiter"); or that they cannot keep themselves from bursting out laughing at the line "Has he been tested for VDTs?" delivered with a straight face by one of the more unfortunate actors.

They also mourn the utter wasting of Harry Lennix as the guy who has to disbelieve Neo's powers long beyond the point where it has stopped being the smart thing to do ("Good news, you're playing the wooden, unsympathetic guy!"), and keep asking questions about why every fight scene has to last for three times as long as it needs to, with diminishing returns.

Though even they get it wrong in overpraising the worst scene of Matrix Reloaded - the one in the restaurant where the sheer deliciousness of the Frenchman's cake causes a diner to have an orgasm, with the camera subtly zooming between her legs and into her crotch (a scene to make Gaspar Noe proud!) - just because they're relieved to be in the company of Lambert Wilson having mischevious fun in his role.

I also seem to remember that the Armageddon commentary by the two NASA scientific advisors was a long string of comments in the vein of "we told the filmmakers that this wasn't realistic or possible in any way, but they ignored us because they wanted to make an action film". The disc is still trapped in my 'to watch' pile at the moment but presumably the Che commentary is similar in the sense of filling in the gaps and adding extra context that Soderbergh ommited in order to create his own idea of 'Che'.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Jul 19, 2011 3:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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domino harvey
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Re: 496 Che

#261 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:52 pm

Along the political lines, the DVD of Bob Roberts, in addition to the two Tim Robbins commentaries, has a third commentary wherein the entire Iran-Contra affair is explained, college lecture style.

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Re: 496 Che

#262 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:56 pm

I prefer the American Dad version! :D

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ando
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Re: 496 Che

#263 Post by ando » Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:52 am

aox wrote: I don't think Soderbergh set out to make a 'bio-pic' in the traditional sense here. He seemed to be taking more of a documentary (docudrama) approach to specific events. This particular 'bio-pic' intentionally lacks scope, and I think this is somewhat refreshing despite the fact that the film might have more failure than successes; it is a bold experiment.
Well, I think you're absolutely right here. In fact, I feel that Soderbergh was approaching the cinematic spareness and rigor of Bresson or Dreyer with Che Part 2. I mentioned to a friend that Soderbergh could have easily called the film Guerilla had he been completely unconcerned with the association of his film with the historical figure. Obviously, he couldn't jettison the historical narrative altogether, but Part 2, for the most part, is so considered and uncompromising (due partly to severe time restraints and the RED Camera considerations) that the experience of watching it with the commentary puts in in a kind of relief that is almost inappropriate - if not a downright disservice.

Soderbergh seems to be concerned with conveying an experience of guerilla warfare that has its own trajectory, momentum and conclusion. In this sense approaching the film is akin to approaching Bresson's A Man Escaped, where a prospective viewer is obviously aware of the outcome but can almost forget the biographical/historical specifics and focus instead on the method by which Sodergergh, like Bresson, implements the narrative. Del Toro proceeds in an almost ritualistic fashion toward the mission in Bolivia in much the same way as the model in Bresson's film. As I mentioned above, the animated personality that was Ernesto "Che" Guevara is absent here. What we see in Che is a figure totally involved with the perfection of a specific kind of warfare in order to correctly apply it like the model in A Man Escaped; consumed, it seems, with perfecting his knowledge and foreknowledge of prison routine and escape preparations in order to circumvent it. Implied in both films is the diary as narrative source and structure: Che's Bolivian diaries and the "voiceover" recounting in A Man Escaped. Both films are disturbingly stark in presentation, documenting in an almost clinical manner the minutia of operation. Inherent in both films, is an emotional and psychological crescendo due almost entirely to a close observation of the accumulation of events. The narratives may seem to be in opposition but both approaches have similar objectives: freedom, or at least, a complete transformation of one's personal state.

Bresson, I'd say, achieves this on a number of levels. Soderbergh, however, seems hampered with the historical figure and, ultimately, traditional narrative to really achieve the sense of religious or aesthetic release that Che's death brings. Che's objective is obviously the overthrow of the Bolivian power structure but that doesn't preclude a narrative closure consistent with the film's style up to that point. Soderbergh concludes with the usual narrative conventions - slow mo, fade-outs, staggered speeds - as well as a homage to Part 1 that, to me, seems completely at odds with the previous two and a half hours of a relentlessly considered observation of a particular guerilla operation.

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Che (Steven Soderbergh, 2008)

#264 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Jan 04, 2016 3:37 pm

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Re: Che (Steven Soderbergh, 2008)

#265 Post by swo17 » Mon Jan 04, 2016 5:23 pm

This made my 2000s list last time so I figured it was due for a revisit. I'm not sure that I'll quite have room for it this round, but it's still a fine effort, technically proficient as usual for Soderbergh if perhaps somewhat lacking in terms of emotional resonance, as though his heart weren't fully in making it.

When done routinely, the biopic is one of my least favorite genres, and I suspect based on the evidence of these films that Soderbergh would agree with me. There's too much about Che to hope to capture in a single film, or even in two films (even two really long ones!) and thankfully Soderbergh doesn't even try, instead focusing on just two campaigns--one successful, the other fatal--and devoting much of the 4-1/2 hour runtime to details of guerrilla life that convey a lot more than would, say, seeing Che as a kid when he sees his first gun. (Did I mention I hate biopics?) It also can't be understated how noble it was to make the film in Spanish, and it probably goes without saying that del Toro and Demián Bichir make for far better casting than Omar Sharif and Jack Palance. I like a lot of the supporting cast too, like the girl from Maria Full of Grace and Franka Potente. I like this film a lot in theory, for how it tackles the genre, and for how it doesn't come down strongly on either side of this controversial figure. It's also very pretty looking. (Wasn't it the first feature film shot on a Red One?) I don't know that my appreciation of the film goes too far beyond any of this though.

Also, who knew that this was Oscar Isaac's introduction into the Collection?!

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Re: Che (Steven Soderbergh, 2008)

#266 Post by jindianajonz » Thu Jan 07, 2016 12:53 pm

I agree with Swo that this could have been a big failure if it had been done as a conventional biopic, but Soderbergh's clinical attention to detail really elevates this story. Soderbergh smartly steers clear of some of the more controversial aspects of Che's career, and desensationalizes his story to a remarkable degreeIt didn't feel like a biography as much as an autopsy; an attempt to understand what went so well in Cuba that didn't happen in Bolivia.

And this really seems to be the crux of the film- a comparison between two time periods, told not through milestones but through repetition and momentum. While most directors would focus on major moments in a figures life, like the dramatic loss of a friend or, as Swo mentions, Che's first gun, Soderbergh simply shows us the man at work. He is more interested in Che's actions and impact than his emotions and beliefs, and Del Toro's Guevera remains a bit of a cipher for the duration of the movie. We get an abstract understanding of his quest for justice and liberty, but we never really get inside of his head.

And that's why I think Soderbergh's methodology works so well here. Che the pop culture icon has been lifted up by both sides as a hero or villain ever since the Cuban revolution. Rather than tell us what we should think about Che, as so many others have done, Soderbergh asks us what we think of him. He lays out the Cuban and Bolivian revolutions pretty well, but doesn't seem to have a good answer for why the former worked while the latter floundered. Was Bolvia just not ready for a revolution? Did his outsider, non-Bolivian status alienate people? This is a very topical reading given the current conflicts in the middle east. Was Che a tactical fighter, and without a strategic Fidel his plans never seemed to go anywhere? Fidel in Part 1 made a point of attacking the Federal barracks as a way of signifying the reach of the rebels in a way the regime could not deny; Che in Bolivia doesn't heed this lesson and instead flounders around in the jungle with no clear aims beyond the vague concept of revolution. Was the greater interest and participation of the United States the key factor that ultimately thwarted Che?

I do wonder how the film would work if a third part detailing Che's efforts in the Congo were included as well. From the little I've read, the Congo was an aimless slog much the same as Bolivia, and Che left Africa disillusioned with the rebels there. Why didn't he learn from his mistakes, and come to Bolivia with clearer objectives? If Soderbergh's film has any takeaway, I'm guessing it's that change on a national level has to come from within, and that communism can't be exported any more easily than democracy can.

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Re: Che (Steven Soderbergh, 2008)

#267 Post by aox » Thu Jan 07, 2016 4:45 pm

jindianajonz wrote:I do wonder how the film would work if a third part detailing Che's efforts in the Congo were included as well. From the little I've read, the Congo was an aimless slog much the same as Bolivia, and Che left Africa disillusioned with the rebels there. Why didn't he learn from his mistakes, and come to Bolivia with clearer objectives? If Soderbergh's film has any takeaway, I'm guessing it's that change on a national level has to come from within, and that communism can't be exported any more easily than democracy can.
Yes, 100%. It's been seven years, but I recall reading that had this film been a little more successful, Soderbergh may have tried to make a middle film detailing Che's experience in Congo. I would have loved to see that bridge the two halves of this film for the exact reasons you lay out.

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