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.

Che
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
261 minutes (US)
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American filmmaker Steven Soderbergh's 2008 film, Che,is also his most enigmatic, which is possibly why it was the biggestcommercial disappoint of his career. After a prolific decade that sawhim rise to the upper echelon of Hollywood directors with such hugelysuccessful 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 ofits leaders, including Fidel Castro and Guevara, leading up to thesuccessful 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.
DelToro's performance, which won him Best Actor at the 2008 Cannes FilmFestival, is his best yet. It is also a lesson in method-acting - theactor spent seven years investigating Guevara's life in preparation forthe part. Del Toro uses brevity and minimalism in his role, and injectsevery scene with a muted intensity. His unique ability to use his eyesand body language is reminiscent of Marlon Brando's portrayal of DonCorleone 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 theCriterion Collection marks the third time the director and theproduction studio have collaborated to produce an iconic presentationof the director's films. Che is indeed the high-water mark oftheir partnership thus far. Presented over multiple discs, the box setfeatures a cut of the films supervised and approved by Soderbergh fromthe high-definition digital masters and a running audio commentaryfeaturing Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life.
Theset also includes multiple documentaries meant to provide historicalcontext to the film, featuring Soderbergh, producer Laura Bickford, delToro, and writers Peter Buchman and Ben van der Veen, interviews withhistorians and participants in the Cuban Revolution and Che's Boliviancampaign. Also in the box is End of a Revolution, a shortdocumentary made in Bolivia right after Che's execution in 1967 and anoriginal video piece looking at the RED camera and its effect on modernfilm production. Also included are deleted scenes, the originaltheatrical trailer and a booklet featuring an essay on the film bycritic Amy Taubin.
The film is available for rent and purchase atthe Third Ear and select video and music stores. Additionally, the filmcan be purchased directly through the Criterion Collection atwww.criterion.com.