Benicio del Toro doesn’t consider four-hour ‘Che’ epic ‘quixotic’

che premiere 181108

Che Guevara was a complicated man, the different facets of his character waiting for a great actor to breathe life into his story: revolutionary, militant, celebrity, student, fanatic, intellectual, working man, and on and on. He was the asthmatic who became a doctor, the pragmatist who fueled violent revolutions, the martyr destroyed by the violence he sowed.

All that being said, I still don’t see how it takes four hours to tell the story of Che Guevara. Bringing this film to life was a passion project for Benicio del Toro. After his Best Supporting Oscar win for Traffic, del Toro approached Traffic’s producers and director (Steven Soderbergh) to see if they would be interested in the project. Eight years and four hours later, we have “Che.” Apparently, they’re only going to screen it as one complete four-hour movie for a limited time in December, then re-release it in two parts – Part I in January, Part II in February.

The first half, detailing the grinding campaign of Fidel Castro’s guerrilla army against the government of Fulgencio Batista, which culminated in Batista’s ouster in 1959, is intercut with scenes of a visit to New York that Guevara made in 1964 to address the United Nations General Assembly. Those bits, shot in a gorgeously grainy mock-antique black-and-white, offer a bit of visual relief from the long slog through the Cuban countryside, as well as providing an occasion for defiant revolutionary apologetics.

Its second half, recreating Guevara’s failed attempt to reproduce the Cuban revolution in Bolivia, might be called “The Passion of the Che,” in honor of the fanatical fidelity with which it walks its sanctified hero through the stations of his martyrdom. Guevara was executed in 1967 by the Bolivian military after his insurgency had been crushed. But the film is also, in a very precise and unusual sense, an action movie. I don’t just mean that it is heavy on battles and gunfights, but rather that action — what people do, as opposed to why they do it — is its primary, indeed obsessive concern.

[From The New York Times]

How long did it take to read that? Four hours? Didn’t think so. Oh wait, did I mention that much of the movie is subtitled?

“It was a lot of responsibility and pressure for Benicio,” says Soderbergh. “More so than for me, I think.” Acting in Spanish was another stress: Del Toro was born in Puerto Rico but has lived in the US since he was 13. “I can walk into the room and leave the room in Spanish. But I dream in English,” he says.

“I learnt a lot about Cuba, the Sixties, Latin American history. It doesn’t matter which way you cut it, it’s my roots. I read Don Quixote,” [del Toro says.] So did he see Che as a Quixotic figure? Del Toro looks surprised. “No, no. But after the revolution in Cuba, the first book that was published and given out free to the people was Don Quixote.”

On the other hand… “There are elements of Don Quixote in Che. But Don Quixote is an actor, a pretender. More like me. Che was a realist. He wasn’t seeing windmills. He was extremely daring and, I would say, quick to draw, to make decisions and go for them. He was a weird combination of an intellectual and an action figure, Gregory Peck and Steve McQueen, wrapped in one.

[From The Telegraph]

Critics are already falling all over themselves to worship this film and del Toro’s performance. While I respect the time, effort and passion it took to make this epic, I can’t help but wonder who will actually see the film when it’s divided up into two parts? It’s not like it’s “Kill Bill: Volumes 1 & 2.”

“Che” also stars Catalina Sandino Moreno and Franka Potente (as two of Che‘s lovers), Demián Bichir (as Fidel Castro), and Santiago Cabrera.

Picture note by JayBird: Here’s Benicio del Toro at the premiere of ‘Che’ held at The UGC Normandie cinema in Paris on November 18th, along with scenes from the film. Images thanks to WENN.

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13 Responses to “Benicio del Toro doesn’t consider four-hour ‘Che’ epic ‘quixotic’”

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  1. Mairead says:

    Well, it took over 2 hours just to tell the story of his trip through South America in The Motorcycle Diaries – so, yeah, 4 hours for one of the seminal characters of the 20th century is about right.

    Christ, it took over three hours just for a gang of bloody hobbits and elves to get 1/3 the way to destroying a bit of jewellery!

    You might get snarky about subtitles, but I’ll wager there are plenty of people throughout the globe who will happily sit through the film with subtitles. And not just lefty students; I’ve even seen streets in the boonies of Sicily named after him.

    I really don’t understand the Anglophone general public’s attitude to non-English films. So subtitles and dubbing are good enough for Johnny-foreginer but we’re above having to concentrate?

    But on the film itself, I love Franke Potente, so yay! Alas Roderigo de la Serna, who was also in the Motorcycle Diaries (and is a relative of Ernesto Guevara) won’t be in it. Shame. I loooooove the Argentinian accent :oops:

  2. irl says:

    Can’t wait to see it but not in theaters. I will wait for the DVD’s so I can watch back to back, rewind to view something again, pause, go to the potty, get a cocktail, resume play. . .

  3. cara says:

    I actually prefer films with subtitles.

  4. geronimo says:

    Benicio! *swoon drool* Thank you, Kaiser!

    Agree with Mairead, what’s with the subtitle angst? Have been to Cuba and fell totally in love with everything about it so would love to see this (although agree, irl, dvd not cinema) and since Benicio is probably centre stage for most of it, they could extend it by another 4 hrs and it still wouldn’t be too long for me! :D

  5. Moderator says:

    Please understand the situation as it is with comments going to moderation. I know it’s frustrating, but they are cleared just as quickly as we can get to them.

    The frequency of comments tripping the moderation filter is increasing and I don’t know why, but as long as I am in front of a computer, I am checking often to make sure comments clear. There is no need to comment again telling me to clear the comment, as soon as I look at the page I know there are comments in moderation.

  6. Kaiser says:

    Geronimo, Mairead – I’m not critisizing subtitles as a rule, it just seems like *four hours* is a long time to basically sit in a dark theatre and read. I adore Benecio and Soderbergh, but it just seems like this movie is overkill.

  7. Kaiser says:

    Whoops. I didn’t mean for my name to be all official like. Where’s my Ava Gardner?!?

    There she is. Carry on.

  8. Mairead says:

    Howeryeh Ava :wink: You enjoyed being all official – admit it!! :P

    I have to say I’m going to vote for seeing it in the cinema – it will benefit greatly from being in an event setting with the characters being life-size. I’m less likely to get distracted and wander off or listen/engage in chattering. But I’m going to head for a cinema I know has super-comfy seats.

    Thanks for explaining Mod, I thought it was just me. It seems to happen in every post more than two lines long.

  9. Celebitchy says:

    We figured out the moderation issue! It was the damn smilies! I updated WordPress to a new version over the weekend and for some reason all the comments with smilies were getting sent to moderation. The smilies have been disabled for now and we’ll have to do it old school from now on. 8) I really hope that’s the issue at least.

  10. Celebitchy says:

    Ok, I made a traditional smiley with an eight and a right parenthesis and it converted it to a cool smiley. 8) 8-) ;) I think the issue is that the new WordPress has automatic smilies built in, and the plug-in thingy we were using conflicted with that, which was sending all the comments to moderation. They’re disabled now but you can use ascii smilies and they’ll get converted to little pictures.

  11. Mairead says:

    Well considering I use smilies more often than commas, no wonder mine were going in constantly!! LOL. :D

    dagnabbit – I typed it in and it still went into moderation. No moar of teh smilies for me!

  12. Tina says:

    Benicio’s an amazing actor. This movie looks like something he’s really proud of creating. I respect actors who feel that way about their work, esp. on topics that are more “intellectual” and that is not made with the intention of smashing blockbuster records all around the world.

    Rather see Benicio’s movie than Valkyrie!

  13. Miss Ellaneous says:

    This is sounding like an episode from “Entourage,” where Vincent made that film about the Columbian Drug Lord, in subtitles…wonder if Benicio’s movie’s fate will mirror the TV show.

    No way a subtitled, four-hour movie is going to make it commercially right now, not in this economy.

    Love Benicio but, seriously.