Results 1 to 10 of 10

Thread: The Motorcycle Diaries

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Posts
    50

    The Motorcycle Diaries

    I wanted to throw this up on the "In Theatres Now" part of filmwurld, but anyhoo:
    The Motorcycle Diaries
    In Spanish with English subtitles.
    Written by Jose Riveras
    Directed by Walter Salles
    Starring: Gael García Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna

    This is without question one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. I haven’t read the book and of course (all together now:) The Movie never does it justice.
    None the less, I thoroughly enjoyed this look at a defining period in Che’s life.

    It was enough to stir up some serious wanderlust, too. In one scene, where the travellers meet with a peasant couple looking for work, the peasants ask the two travelling doctors if they are looking for work too.
    “No.” Says Ernesto Guevara
    “Well, then, why are you travelling?”
    “We travel just to travel.” He replies.
    “God Bless you.”

    Today, people travel for the sake of travelling all the time. Back then, it was different. The prospect of setting out flat broke on a motorcycle that pisses oil was complete lunacy. An act of necessity rather than will. In some ways, I guess it was an act of necessity. The two wanted desperately to know more about “the land they knew only from books” and sure enough, they found it.

    The Motorcycle Diaries is one of my top films for the year. Well shot, acted, directed and written.
    www.motorcyclediaries.net

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Posts
    4,824
    You liked the film more than I did, but I'll say this much: Motorcycle Diaries is the best film in wide release currently (I have yet to watch Huckabees though). The decision to narrow the focus to a few months in the life of Guevara was a wise one. I walked in concerned about the filmmakers producing a hagiography, and indeed, Bernal's performance verges on the beatific. But this is Guevara at age 23, his coming-of-age, and the performance is balanced nicely by Rodrigo de la Serna as the earthy, bawdy Alberto. The narrow focus allows the filmmakers to sidestep the controversies regarding Guevara's later conduct.

    The key scene in the film, in my opinion, was Guevara's impulse to swim across the river to celebrate with the most afflicted patients of the leper colony. It's a powerful analogy to Guevara as one who'd sacrifice himself in the pursuit of social justice. I would have ended the film with Ernesto and Alberto's sailing upriver in the "Mambo-Tango". What comes after is anti-climatic and superfluous.

    I don't know to what extent the film is faithful to the two books it draws from, or whether their content is factual. I am curious and welcome any comments.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Vancouver, B.C.
    Posts
    599

    Here is my review

    THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (Diarios de motocicleta)

    Directed by Walter Salles (2004)

    "Always be capable of feeling deep inside any injustice committed against anyone anywhere in the world." - Ché Guevara


    The Motorcycle Diaries is about the early years of Marxist revolutionary hero Ernesto Ché Guevara and the process that led him to give up a promising medical career to become a radical activist. Directed by Brazilian Walter Salles and adapted from the journals of Guevara and his traveling companion Alberto Granado, the film shows how their 8,000 mile road trip across South America in 1952 on a 1939 Norton motorcycle led to Guevara's powerful transformation. The narration, based on Guevara's observations in his diaries and his letters home during the time that he was away, gives the film a poetic tone that contrasts sharply with the earthy screenplay of Jose Rivera. Rodrigo de la Serna, an Argentine actor, plays the lusty biochemist Alberto who is there for Ché when he is suffering asthma attacks and his aid in their constant struggle to find food and shelter. Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien) portrays Guevara as an appealing middle class youth coming face to face with injustice, perhaps for the first time in his life.

    The trip takes the two friends from Buenos Aires, west to Patagonia, Chile, through the snow-covered Andes, then north to Cuzco, Machu Picchu and Lima. The journey is beautifully photographed by Eric Gautier and the gorgeous vistas of South America themselves are worth the price of admission. In the middle of the Atacama desert in Chile, Guevara meets a family looking for work at the Chuquicamata copper mine, the world's largest open-pit mine, run by American mining conglomerates and a symbol of U.S. economic domination. Their chances of finding work are slim since they are Communists, yet they have no alternative but to keep going in order to survive. Guevara writes in his diary: "By the light of the single candle … the contracted features of the worker gave off a mysterious and tragic air … the couple, frozen stiff in the desert night, hugging one another, were a live representation of the proletariat of any part of the world." Feeling their plight, he offers them the fifteen U.S. dollars given to him by his wealthy girlfriend when he left Miramar, Argentina.

    The travelers volunteer for three weeks at San Pablo, a leper colony deep in the Amazon where nuns enforce a strict separation between patients and staff and refuse to feed anyone that does not attend mass. Guevara rebels against the rules and refuses to attend mass or wear rubber gloves when greeting patients. To show his solidarity with the lepers he swims across a two and one-half stretch of the Amazon to be with the patients on his 24th birthday. On this occasion, he gives his first political speech. "We believe, he said, "and after this trip even more firmly than before, that Latin America's division into illusory and uncertain nationalities is completely fictitious". When Alberto goes to work in Venezuela, Ché returns to Buenos Aires proclaiming himself a changed man. "I will be on the side of the people … I will take to the barricades and the trenches, screaming as one possessed, will stain my weapons with blood, and, mad with rage, will cut the throat of any vanquished foe I encounter," he writes in his diary.

    Though its political implications are not hidden, The Motorcycle Diaries stays away from sermonizing except to ask -- what is the Latin American identity beyond the strong colonial influence, the different languages, and the varying political systems? Salles does not offer any answers and touches on issues of class-consciousness and injustice from a safe distance. Although the film endorses idealism in a world grown cynical, it offers its radicalism as an entertaining road trip, a cinematic T-shirt for comfortable middle class audiences that ignores such untidy adjuncts of social upheaval as internment camps, prisoners shot on sight, and bloodlust against real or perceived enemies. Nothing is said about conditions in present day Latin America where the richest 10 percent account for 35 percent of total earnings, where 43 percent of the population live below the poverty line, and where 20 million people are poorer today than they were in 1997.

    Guevara was a revolutionary who fought for social justice and his legend is an inspiration to thousands who languish under oppressive regimes, yet beyond the myth is a complex and driven man capable of ruthlessness and hard line adherence to an ideology that trampled on human rights. The Motorcycle Diaries succeeds in preserving the symbol but overlooks the man, simplistically presenting only the sentimental side of a multi-faceted personality. If we want insight into who Ché Guevara was, what drove him, and what demons caused him to proclaim, "Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become", we will have to look elsewhere.

    GRADE: B+
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,762
    Although the film endorses idealism in a world grown cynical, it offers its radicalism as an entertaining road trip, a cinematic T-shirt for comfortable middle class audiences that ignores such untidy adjuncts of social upheaval as internment camps, prisoners shot on sight, and bloodlust against real or perceived enemies. Nothing is said about conditions in present day Latin America where the richest 10 percent account for 35 percent of total earnings, where 43 percent of the population live below the poverty line, and where 20 million people are poorer today than they were in 1997.


    No, you're right, but one would be looking in the wrong place for these things, and as you say, the movie avoids "sermonizing" as any good movie does. This is -- obviously -- a dramatization, of the travel journals of Guevara and his less famous but still living traveling companion Alberto Granado, one which seeks to be precise in its sense of time and place. How and why then would it say something about "conditions in present day Latin America..." etc.? But the filmmakers have commented that in many ways the world they encontereed on the road in making the film is worse than the one the young men met with half a century ago. Thus it was not difficult to recreate a feeling of "unspoiled" lands and unfinished roads, because they're still there, even more, the infrastructure more degenerated.

    The movie has a lot "to say" about what it's about. It may be, as Oscar suggests, that Bernal was so smitten by the whole experience that he overly beatifies Guevara's personality, which may have been closer to Granado's than the movie makes it seem. But this is also the charm of Bernal's performance, that he's so clearly having a wonderful experience in playing this role and reliving this journey, that it's influencing his young mind as it must have influenced the actual Ernesto's. And the main point is to take us on this journey and make us think what it might have been like and try to imagine what these young men knew and did not know when they made it, to project ourselves back to that time and those places. This is a greater feat of the imagination than any amount of sermonizing would entail.

    The movie impresses people in different ways. Some think it's "ho-hum," and indeed it is bland and harmless overall, weakened structurally by following the actual shape of the journey. (I have not read the books either, but I still mean to read Guevara's as I have since it was issued in paperback in English a year or so ago.) It has longeurs, dry places, dull places, like an actual journey, especially one made with limited means. But like an actual journey it leaves a deep impression, and I think a very pleasant and inspiring one. A friend said it "massages your liberal ego," and in a way this is true, that by contemplating a budding revolutionary without having to think about the violent deeds he was involved in later on or the degenerated state of affairs today (though also there is new hope in Latin American governments today) we feel good about our politics, without going very deep. But to say this is to forget that "Che" was not yet "Che." Nor was Alberto yet Alberto. And this is the film's charm and its depth, that it leaves us pondering how the events we witnessed made them the men they were to become.

    And for whatever weaknesses Motorcycle Diaries may have, I think it is a lot of people's current favorite film.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Vancouver, B.C.
    Posts
    599
    Originally posted by Chris Knipp


    No, you're right, but one would be looking in the wrong place for these things, and as you say, the movie avoids "sermonizing" as any good movie does. And for whatever weaknesses Motorcycle Diaries may have, I think it is a lot of people's current favorite film. [/B]
    Your points are well reasoned and very valid. However, the film left me wanting to know more about the real person beyond the symbol. If you take it at face value, it is entertaining but hardly groundbreaking. If you want events put in a larger context both for him personally and for the movements he represented, it is lacking.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,762
    Certainly, Howard, and the movie has its limitations, but as I said, in seeking some of the things you outline, "you're right, but one would be looking in the wrong place for these things" in looking for them in The Motorcycle Diaries, because they're not there, and were never meant to be there. To have shown an awareness of contemporary Latin American politics and economics, for instance, would be anachronistic in a story about 1952. "At face value" is pretty much the way we have to take it, and as a specific story about a specific trip at a specific time the movie is vivid and memorable.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Vancouver, B.C.
    Posts
    599
    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    Certainly, Howard, and the movie has its limitations, but as I said, in seeking some of the things you outline, "you're right, but one would be looking in the wrong place for these things" in looking for them in The Motorcycle Diaries, because they're not there, and were never meant to be there. To have shown an awareness of contemporary Latin American politics and economics, for instance, would be anachronistic in a story about 1952. "At face value" is pretty much the way we have to take it, and as a specific story about a specific trip at a specific time the movie is vivid and memorable.
    Not at all. The narration at the end brought things to the present day, relating what Guevara went on to do and showing Gonzales in present day Cuba. Very simply, they could have added some commentary about how the conditions in Latin America have not changed since 1952. This would at least have made the point that violent revolution is not the answer and all the bluster about it has not changed conditions one iota.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,762

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Houston
    Posts
    377
    Originally posted by Howard Schumann
    Very simply, they could have added some commentary about how the conditions in Latin America have not changed since 1952. This would at least have made the point that violent revolution is not the answer and all the bluster about it has not changed conditions one iota.
    But that wasn't the point of the movie. It's not meant to be an objective overview of political revolutions in Latin American society. Instead, it tells a very personal story about a trip that strongly influenced Guevara's own subjective political and sociological ideology. I don't think the film even really passes judgment on the larger issue of the effectiveness of revolution. It merely shows how the injustices as seen through the eyes of one person can change that person's world view. Several times in the film the characters were told that they were idealistic, and as history has shown us, action based on pure ideology can often have brutal consequences.

    I also disagree with Oscar's statement that the ending was unnecessary. I prefered the ending at the airplane hanger instead of ending it on the river. Guevara at this point was still finding his voice and his path, and he explained to his companion that he wasn't sure what he was going to do. This wasn't simply a man who swam across the Amazon and instantly became a superhero. This was a man who needed to continue to observe and to inquire and to rationalize.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,762
    The range of opinions on this movie vary with one's politics and one's romanticism. I wouldn't expect David Walsh of the World Socialist Web Site to like it (he doesn't seem to have reviewed it). It's not likely to appeal much to the leftist or the hip person (can a hip person be a rightist?)

    Examples:

    Jessica Winter of the Village Voice:
    The Motorcycle Diaries is lovely to look at but insipid, a lavishly illustrated Rough Guide to white liberal self-affirmation. When Ernesto, weakened by frequent, harrowing asthma attacks, struggles to swim across the Amazon to spend his 24th birthday with patients at the San Pablo leper colony, the act crystallizes Salles's film: a well-meaning but ostentatious display of solidarity with a vaguely defined ideal, not entirely unlike making the scene in your Che Guevara tank top.
    What I don't understand here is what's wrong with a 24-year-old indulging in a "well-meaning but ostentatious display of solidarity with a vaguely defined ideal." It seems just perfect to me.

    Walter Chaw of Film Freak Central has a more nuanced but equally disapproving analysis:
    Guevara is cast as an honest-to-a-fault, saintly figure, so that when his death is revealed in a series of end-titles, it feeds into the image of Guevara as a martyr--the patron saint of freshman year, sharing dorm room wall space with Jerry Garcia and that Robert Doisneau photograph of two people kissing in Paris ("Le Basier de L'Hotel de Vilne", 1950). As soon as The Motorcycle Diaries becomes a hagiography, it no longer matters how hard the film has tried to paint a portrait of Guevara in his youth to represent any sensitive young man in any time or place discovering that the world isn't fair. In this way, the film is suddenly specifically political rather than generally, archetypically affecting.
    I think this gets at the problem. There's too much attention on what Che was to become for us, or for Walter Salles, or Bernal, to lose ourselves in the story of the 23-year-old. Chaw also says:
    Salles needed to have decided between making a picture about a young man who would someday be a champion of the people (and later a ruthless revolutionary) and making a picture about two guys discovering their sense of justice while coming of age on the pounded dirt trails of their native land.
    He thinks that the stills and other added material cause the film to tilt away from the second goal--which I, for one, would rather have seen adhered to, because I think that's all there was in the diaries. But Alberto Granado's "Travels with Che" book was used as well as Guevara's diaries, and judging by that title I think any effort to maintain "innocence" was doomed from the start. While I think it's almost ridiculous to blame the film for not showing how Guevara could become a ruthless "murderer" as some have done, I also don't understand why a greater social-political analysis is called for by others. Light and enjoyable as it is much of the time, the film is ultimately a bit heavy-handed about its foreshadowings and afterwards.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •