Fausta's blog

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The official blog of Fausta's Blog Talk Radio show.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Benicio's Che vs reality's Che

Maria sent me the link to the NYT's review of the Cannes Film Festival review of the unfinished "saga" on the most romanticized serial murderer in the world, Che. (Erik skipped that one. It was a bore.)

There's a couple of interesting things about this film review:

First, the title of the article: Soderbergh and Che, Provocateurs, which summarizes Soderbergh's intention. Provocateur, being edgy, rhapsodizing about the revolution, and worshipping the idol of the bien pensant around the world. For that he is regarded as
one of the most protean and interesting of American filmmakers, exploring an astonishing range of genres and styles with consistent skill, intelligence and audacity
Protean indeed.
Soderbergh wasn't audacious enough to show the names of the hundreds of people Che personally killed.

Then there's the photo in the article,

Benicio in full Che drag, pistol in hand, being the very picture of the heroic bandido of popular lore.

And third, the reviewer, who gets paid to sit through the "four-and-a-half-hour exploration", at least has the delicacy to mention that

There is a lot, however, that the audience will not learn from this big movie, which has some big problems as well as major virtues. In between the two periods covered in "Che," Guevara was an important player in the Castro government, but his brutal role in turning a revolutionary movement into a dictatorship goes virtually unmentioned. This, along with Benicio Del Toro’s soulful and charismatic performance, allows Mr. Soderbergh to preserve the romantic notion of Guevara as a martyr and an iconic figure, an idealistic champion of the poor and oppressed. By now, though, this image seems at best naïve and incomplete, at worst sentimental and dishonest.
This is bad, not because preserving a romantic image of a mass murderer, but because "it is not very interesting."

Now let's examine the real Che as depicted by another interesting, skilled and intelligent man who I had the pleasure of meeting a few months ago, Carlos Eire. Carlos writes about Che the homophobe:
He thinks about that cruel ritual he has witnessed so many times, when the guards strip all the prisoners naked and parade the most handsome in front of the newly arrived inmates to find out who among them is gay. He thinks about how anyone who gets aroused is taken away for a special mandatory "rehabilitation" program that includes the application of electrical currents to the genitals.
The NYT photo from the movie gives you the impression that Che was heroic in battle, when instead
The "acrid odor of gunpowder and blood" never reached Guevara's nostril from actual combat. It always came from the close-range murder of bound, gagged and blindfolded men. He was a true Chekist: "Always interrogate your prisoners at night," Che commanded his prosecutorial goons. "A man is easier to cow at night, his mental resistance is always lower."
Humberto Fontova writes about Che's specialty:
Che specialized in psychological torture. Many prisoners were yanked out of their cells, bound, blindfolded and stood against The Wall. The seconds ticked off. The condemned could hear the rifle bolts snapping ..... finally – FUEGO!!

BLAM!! But the shots were blanks. In his book, "Tocayo," Cuban freedom fighter Tony Navarro describes how he watched a man returned to his cell after such an ordeal. He'd left bravely, grim-faced as he shook hands with his fellow condemned. He came back mentally shattered, curling up in a corner of the squalid cell for days.
And the NYT article doesn't show the firing squads of Cuban revolution:

No, the NYT writes up an unfinished movie. The same NYT which, to this day, won't bother reviewing Carlos Eire's book Waiting For Snow In Havana, even when the book won the National Book Award.

It's all a matter of priorities.

UPDATE, Monday 26 May
Benicio wins Cannes best actor award...


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At 6:42 PM, Anonymous RHM said...

Typical Hollywood. They never fail to call themselves great artists by portraying the "personal, soft side" of monsters. And they never fail to apply an entirely different standard to conservative leaders like Reagan and Bush and then congratulate themselves for "having the courage to tell the truth".

At 9:16 PM, Blogger Pat Patterson said...

Steven Soderbergh has managed to have his cake, as artist seeking truth via a large number of "intellectual" films that do zilch at the box office. Yet also has a string of Ross Hunter-style blockbusters that make lots of money but really add nothing to the world at large. And what really upsets me is that my new copy of Carol Reed's The Third Man has a voice over commentary by Soederbergh who reveals himself to be a typical film school fan with an awareness of humanity better left to fifteen year old poets.

At least with the DVD I don't have to listen to his ramblings more than once.

At 10:03 PM, Blogger Jeremayakovka said...

Bravo, Fausta! If only for the memory of slaughtered, tortured, oppressed Cubans.

Speaking of poets, that still from the new movie makes him look like a Bohemian poet with a mean righteous streak - a masculine, less dissolute Paul Verlaine perhaps; or rather, The Passion of the Comrade....

At 10:36 PM, Blogger Fausta said...

The Passion of the Comrade
It's quite ironic that those who won't believe in God hang their faith on messianic imagerie that is best portrayed in t-shirts and movies, isn't it?

At 3:28 PM, Blogger Jeremayakovka said...

Critical, classically liberal culture warriors like us need to dispense once and for all with "homophobe" as a derogatory epithet.

"Fear" is Queerspeak for You will be re-educated [subdued and conformed - or else ridiculed, marginalized and even destroyed] according to our post-modern, post-industrial, post-border, post-gender worldview.

Attitudes towards homosexuality range far more widely than supposed "fear." No doubt Ernesto's ranged widely, too. Besides, people who lack knowledge of Party- and cadre-level Marxists can't grasp the iron-fisted warped will which a man like him exercised. Campy, and possibly insightful, speculation about Ernesto's own desires aside, I suspect - in his hunt for "Enemies of the Revolution" - he harbored a intense contempt for homosexuality that makes right-wing American culture warriors (who manage, as Americans, tolerate LGBTetc. people) seem - almost - like Big Bird in a feather boa.


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