DVD Review: Che

American filmmaker Steven Soderbergh's 2008 film is also his most enigmatic, which is possibly why it was the biggest commercial disappoint of his career.

By BRIAN BLONDY
January 26, 2010 20:50
2 minute read.

 
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Che
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
261 minutes (US)

A poster for Steven...


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American filmmaker Steven Soderbergh's 2008 film, Che, is also his most enigmatic, which is possibly why it was the biggest commercial disappoint of his career. After a prolific decade that saw him rise to the upper echelon of Hollywood directors with such hugely successful hits as Erin Brokovich, Traffic and Ocean's Eleven, Soderbergh became one of the select few who can take on personal cinéma vérité projects like Che and survive the ensuing financial disappointment. Ultimately, despite it's box office failure, Che is Soderbergh's most mature and beautiful work and a film that should gain more respect as it ages in this new DVD edition.






As its name implies, Che is a sprawling two-part biopic about Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Part One, entitled The Argentine, follows the build-up to the Cuban revolution from the perspective of its leaders, including Fidel Castro and Guevara, leading up to the successful overthrow of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista on January 1, 1959. Part Two, entitled Guerilla, focuses on Guevara's attempts to develop and implement revolution in Bolivia, which lead to his eventual death in 1967.






The film is the second collaboration between Soderbergh and actor Benecio Del Toro - the two worked together in Traffic, which garnered Del Toro a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2000. In Che, as in Traffic, Del Toro - allowed the freedom to develop Che's idiosyncrasies and humanity - embodies, rather than plays, his character.








Del Toro's performance, which won him Best Actor at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, is his best yet. It is also a lesson in method-acting - the actor spent seven years investigating Guevara's life in preparation for the part. Del Toro uses brevity and minimalism in his role, and injects every scene with a muted intensity. His unique ability to use his eyes and body language is reminiscent of Marlon Brando's portrayal of Don Corleone in The Godfather and could be counted as one of the most impressive performances of the modern cinematic era.






THE NEW three-disc special edition of Che from the Criterion Collection marks the third time the director and the production studio have collaborated to produce an iconic presentation of the director's films. Che is indeed the high-water mark of their partnership thus far. Presented over multiple discs, the box set features a cut of the films supervised and approved by Soderbergh from the high-definition digital masters and a running audio commentary featuring Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life.






The set also includes multiple documentaries meant to provide historical context to the film, featuring Soderbergh, producer Laura Bickford, del Toro, and writers Peter Buchman and Ben van der Veen, interviews with historians and participants in the Cuban Revolution and Che's Bolivian campaign. Also in the box is End of a Revolution, a short documentary made in Bolivia right after Che's execution in 1967 and an original video piece looking at the RED camera and its effect on modern film production. Also included are deleted scenes, the original theatrical trailer and a booklet featuring an essay on the film by critic Amy Taubin.




The film is available for rent and purchase at the Third Ear and select video and music stores. Additionally, the film can be purchased directly through the Criterion Collection at www.criterion.com.

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