“Waltz With Bashir” & “Che”

It’s been busy and my mind keeps jumping from one thing to another constantly. So many things I’m doing and planning, so many more things that I want to do, and no matter how tired I feel there is always the sense that not too much has been accomplished. I want to be stronger.

Anyway, this past weekend I saw two, actually three movies. I saw “Waltz with Bashir”, an Israeli animated film, that basically deals with the filmmaker’s inexplicable  inability to remember his participation in the 1982 Lebanon war, where he was a soldier serving with the isreali forces. Ari Folman’s film shows with incredible honesty the trauma of the soldiers who witnesses death and massacre, and how your brain works to shut off the unpleasant images. But it keeps one image, that keeps coming up and haunts him. He has conversations with psychologists that explain why his brain’s acting like that. Through conversations with fellow soldiers that were there, and journalists, Folman pieces together the past and remembers what had happened. No, it is not pleasant, and the final scenes of the film are almost unbearable. But they are the truth. A nasty truth that nobody likes, and would like to… well, forget.

The other movie I saw was “Che” the roadshow edition at the Kendall, which basically incorporates both parts of the epic movie directed by Steven Soderbergh. The first thing I liked about the screening was that there were no advertisements or previews. It is so damn good not to have to sit through ads. The first part shows Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s guerrilla life in Cuba, where the revolution, led by Fidel Castro, succeeded in taking power. Che, an Argentine, feels sometime that he has to explain himself why, he, a foreigner, is so interested in Cuba. Guevara had the vision of a united nations of latin america and this is how he started implementing his vision in Cuba. This part of his life is dominated by fighting in the countryside and towns of Cuba, and ultimately winning. His asthma is sometimes really bad, but he does not allow it to interfere with his work. Che is a comandante and a doctor. His appearance at the UN is also a high point, where he does not mince words and accuses other latin countries of being too dependant on foreign countries, like the US and USSR. He’s treated like a rock star in New York, but he’s detached from the glamour. I think overall the film was nicely done, and some scenes had exceptional photography.

The second part deals with Guevara’s unsuccessful bid to organize and fight the anti-government guerrilla war in Bolivia. He’s older now. He disappears from Cuba, where obviously he could have been one of the power players in Castro’s government, and goes to Bolivia. Things there are difficult. Not too many followers, the conditions are harsh, the campesinos do not cooperate, the asthma attacks are getting worse. There is lots of waiting for fighting, lots of exhaustion, and when the fighting does happen, Che’s group is crushed. Of course the Bolivian government had the assistance of the US, and Che is killed, defeated. There was a general mood of defeat hanging over the movie, which was fitting I guess.

At the end of the movie there were no credits, but we got a Che-booklet with lots of information about the film. Benicio Del Toro did an excellent job as Che. The cigar smoking Che, Che the fighter. Del Toro showed up after the screening for a half-hour Q&A and he was quite cool. He’s one of the producers of the movie, and he went to Soderbergh with the idea. He was pretty articulate and thoughtful. He graciously avoided answering if Che’s fighting has been a good thing considering the state of Cuba now, or if things would be better if his vision for united nations of latin america had succeeded. Gotta love political correctness. He mentioned another thing I did not know: that the director of photography Peter Andrews is actually an alias for Soderbergh and he said that having the same person as director and DP helped a lot to shoot the scenes more efficiently. 

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