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DVD Talk review of 'The Motorcycle Diaries'

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DVD Talk review of 'The Motorcycle Diaries'

Old 02-25-05, 01:47 PM
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DVD Talk review of 'The Motorcycle Diaries'

I read Jason Bovberg's DVD review of The Motorcycle Diaries at http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=14637 and...

It's unfortunate that the reviewer Mr. Bovberg, under the guise of providing an informed opinion of the film "The Motorcycle Diaries," is less than literate in his approach. In the review, he asks that the film not take such a sentimental view of a such a controversial figure as Che Guevara -that there ought to be a forshadowing of his future character, marked by an outburst of violence or rage. What he foolishly fails to recognize, or make note of, is that this desire, if met, would've been less honest to the material than any accomadations that were made when the script was adapted from the journal Che Guevara kept at the time. Having actually read the book - which has been in publication for about forty years and is available at any bookstore- I'd like to take a moment and give my opinion of the film: it's great! An honest, dramatic film with plenty of room given for the actors to breathe, the film gives a condensed retelling of Guevara's story, and also offers an image of a man who we know must eventually sacrifice his innocence for his beliefs. The open ended nature of the film also asks the audience: what would you do if you felt the wieght of the world on your shoulders, with the elbow of capitalism crushing your country's dreams of economic freedom? It's important I think, that we see Che as we see ourselves as we were in youth: innocent. It was quite naive on the part of the reviewer to assume that because Che acted a certain way later in life that he acted that way in his youth; certainly, this is a poor assumption, given that during the years of his youth he enjoyed a life in a rare, politically stable climate, compared to that of his adulthood, where he was surrounded by hostile forces on all sides. I am not saying this in support of Guevara's actions, of which my opinion is of little concern, but am bringing to light facts which ought to have been considered when reviewing this film. Namely: this film's screenplay was adapted from an autobiography of Che Guevara during a far more innocent period of his life, and while it does offer a bit of development on the part of his character to maybe hint at the kind of man he would become, the films intention (in it's open-endedness) is to question Guevara's drive, and more importantly whether his ends (admittedly honorable from any perspective) would ultimately justify his means(controversial at best, murderous at worst). Offering a pat answer as to this inner pathos, while maybe initially more desirable, would've ruined the film and done a disservice to a mostly honest vignette of the man's youth. I'd give the film four and a half stars.
Old 02-26-05, 12:36 PM
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Excellent statement. I share your criticism toward the review and could not disagree more: this was an excellent film that unfortunately here in the States spurs all sorts of unwanted political plethoras (which is a common occurance when we happen to disagree with someone else's political stance).

Regards,
Pro-B

Last edited by pro-bassoonist; 02-26-05 at 12:39 PM.
Old 03-03-05, 01:53 PM
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I really wanted to like this film and was looking forward to it - but found it very disapointing. Nice visuals and decent coming-of-age awakening story but for me it was slow and untimately boring.
Old 03-03-05, 03:46 PM
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Insipid, sentimentalized drivel.
Old 03-04-05, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Richard Malloy
Insipid, sentimentalized drivel.

thank you for that well informed review
Old 03-05-05, 01:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Newfrd
thank you for that well informed review
Exactly my thoughts.........unbelievable.


Pro-B
Old 03-05-05, 12:29 PM
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I am in agreement that The Motorcycle Diaries receives an unfair connotation at the heart due to the political nature which is ultimately connected to Guevara's life, but I can understand that some people cannot distance themselves from this.

I thought The Motorcycle Diaries was a fine film and well-representative of the book and Guevara's early life. Not spectacular or anything, but definitely worth my $15 for the DVD and a few hours of my time to watch it.

In the end, though, any review of a potentially politically controversial film MUST be sentimentalized. I don't want to read a review by someone who claims to have no bias when reviewing the film, because that is unnatural. To illustrate this point, you don't have to go any farther than Roger Ebert's review of The Motorcycle Diaries. I enjoy reading Ebert's reviews, but Ebert himself said that even though its a good film, he essentially can't endorse it because he sentimentally disagrees with the modern image of "Che". Biased? Yes, completely. But thats the way it is. I'd rather have that than him try to claim to be "unbiased" and therefore write an unfair review.
Old 03-06-05, 07:19 PM
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I too thought this movie was very slow and boring. But the dvd picture quality looked great to me.
Old 03-07-05, 09:51 AM
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I am in agreement that The Motorcycle Diaries receives an unfair connotation at the heart due to the political nature which is ultimately connected to Guevara's life, but I can understand that some people cannot distance themselves from this.
But the film made it very easy to distance oneself from the political dimension, leaving nothing but a vapid, cliche'd road picture that I doubt would receive any accolades but for the main character ultimately adopting the name and persona of "Che". You can consider my review ill-informed if you wish, but I know one or two things about cinema and Guevara, and I stand by it: "insipid, sentimentalized drivel".
Old 03-08-05, 12:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Richard Malloy
But the film made it very easy to distance oneself from the political dimension, leaving nothing but a vapid, cliche'd road picture that I doubt would receive any accolades .....
The film won more than a dozen accolades (and was nominated for twice that many) at such prestigious festivals as Cannes, San Sebastian, the Goya Awards, Cesar Awards, The London Film Critics Awards, BAFTA, etc. So, perhaps you just missed what other found in this outstanding film.

Pro-B
Old 03-08-05, 08:38 AM
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Are you really gonna take my quote that far out of context when it's sitting right above yours? I didn't say "nothing but a vapid, cliche'd road picture that I doubt would receive any accolades". Rather, I said "nothing but a vapid, cliche'd road picture that I doubt would receive any accolades but for the main character ultimately adopting the name and persona of "Che".

I can't believe you of all people would fall for this romanticized schmaltz, this trite hagiography. Again, but for it being "el Che", it'd be dismissed as yet another in a long run of cheesy biopics. And it's the only film I've ever seen Garcia-Bernal literally sleep-walk through a role, which means it doesn't even rise the level of "Ray".
Old 03-08-05, 10:56 AM
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It would be helpful if you gave some reasons behind why you thought the movie was insipid drivel.

Personally, I thought that there was very little that was sentimentalized about the film. In fact, I appreciated that it wasn't. Consider this: how often, in a formulaic, "sentimental" movie, does the hero not get the girl? Never. How about the sentimental "hero" movie, where the protagonist acts like Christ our savior? Neither of these cliche's apply to this film. The character, Ernesto Guevara, in this film, not only faces the problems of real relationships (not only with Mia Maestro's character, but with his best friend as well) but shows many flaws, none of which are glossed over or overly emphasized. His strengths and his weaknesses are presented in a forward way, but never in a sentimental, romantic way (and by romantic I'm referring to the expressionist style founded in German silent cinema and further developed by director's like Spielberg, Lucas, and Herzog, to name a few).
Old 03-08-05, 11:42 AM
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I personally found "The Motorcycle Diaries" to be a great film and got be fascinated more with the real life Che Guevara since the only things I know about him is that he was Castro's comrade in the Cuban revolution, plus the numerous t-shirts that were popular before that had his face on it.

Yet the more I dug into Guevara's life, the more it got dark in my views of this historical figure. As much as championed the working class and the equality of the masses, he went way too extreme in his beliefs that his ideology is the "end all be all."

Among the facts that I've read is that Che Guevara was responsible for the labor camps and mass execution of the "counter-revolutionaries"...often pulling the trigger himself in what he calls his coup de grace which is firing a .45 pointblank at the back of the head of a blindfolded prisoner. He would parade the families of those he killed to the blood-drenched walls, showing utter brutality in his means.

For the film merits alone, Motorcycle Diaries is an incredible work. Yet some internet critics have also raised the issue that a film about Hitler and his humane characteristics may also be a good movie but shouldn't advocate praise for the monster he is.

I just found out that Steven Soderbergh is currently filming the life of Che Guevara with Benicio Del Toro. This is certainly a movie I am looking forward to, hoping to show the charismatic, as well as the despotic side of this man.
Old 03-08-05, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Lucasthucus
It would be helpful if you gave some reasons behind why you thought the movie was insipid drivel.

Personally, I thought that there was very little that was sentimentalized about the film. In fact, I appreciated that it wasn't. Consider this: how often, in a formulaic, "sentimental" movie, does the hero not get the girl? Never. How about the sentimental "hero" movie, where the protagonist acts like Christ our savior? Neither of these cliche's apply to this film. The character, Ernesto Guevara, in this film, not only faces the problems of real relationships (not only with Mia Maestro's character, but with his best friend as well) but shows many flaws, none of which are glossed over or overly emphasized. His strengths and his weaknesses are presented in a forward way, but never in a sentimental, romantic way (and by romantic I'm referring to the expressionist style founded in German silent cinema and further developed by director's like Spielberg, Lucas, and Herzog, to name a few).
Lucas, we may well have to disagree on this, as my reaction to the film is nearly 180 degrees from yours, but I'll try to flesh out my feelings a bit more. I find this film to be not only a thoroughly average and sentimentalized biopic, but also a romanticized, bowdlerized version of "The Motorcycle Diaries" themselves. I haven't read Granada's "With Che" which was apparently also the source of the screenplay, but even assuming it bears the same vapid depictions as the film, one still must look first to "the Diaries" as the source. That's my starting point.

And, certainly, it's difficult to say for sure who Che was at that time, as most biographers agree that he altered the Diaries himself until late in his life, that is, they aren't necessarily the extemporaneous writings that the reader is supposed to take them to be. So, it could be true that the more political elements were added by the older Che, making the young Ernesto every bit the intellectual naif the film made him out to be. But this strikes me as a rather dubious proposition considering that we're talking about an extremely intelligent, very well-educated, going-to-medical-school young man in his early 20s.

So, that caveat aside, the Diaries simply do not leave the reader with the same impression of young Ernesto as said intellectual naif, without any political predilections or awareness save those few gauzy moments of contact with the poverty around him and a final Christ-like encounter with the afflicted (no messiah complex here, of course). It seems to me that the filmmakers not only struggled with the rather dubious legacy of the man who became "el Che", but also with the young Ernesto, and rather than allowing for these complicating elements to produce a more fully realized portrait (though contradictory, as humans are, and certainly somewhat less laudible), they chose instead to follow the more bland mythologizing that's easily digested by, say, your average upper middle-class liberal who feels rather flattered to find that our young hero is a shy, retiring sort who can't dance and doesn't get the girl. Or, for that matter, appealing to those who know little more about the man than a silk-screened t-shirt might tell them, the very same useful idiots who don't seem to recognize the bizarre incongruency of a benefit concert for the people of Tibet on a stage adorned with the banner of the Western world's best-known Maoist.

So, try this on for size: get out your copy of the Diaries, read the concluding paragraph from the final entry (A Note in the Margin), and ask yourself whether that Ernesto ever appears in this film about the young shy boy who touches lepers. And, if you agree with me that he does not, then why not?
Old 03-08-05, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by pro-bassoonist
The film won more than a dozen accolades (and was nominated for twice that many) at such prestigious festivals as Cannes, San Sebastian, the Goya Awards, Cesar Awards, The London Film Critics Awards, BAFTA, etc. So, perhaps you just missed what other found in this outstanding film.
You're not seriously citing award wins as proof of supposed quality, are you?

How many Oscars did Forrest Gump win?
Old 03-09-05, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Josh Z
You're not seriously citing award wins as proof of supposed quality, are you?
This many awards at this many prestigious festivals? I'd say yes. These weren't the Oscars or the People's Choice awards.

How many Oscars did Forrest Gump win?
You're confusing the Oscars with prestigious film festivals.
Old 03-09-05, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
This many awards at this many prestigious festivals? I'd say yes. These weren't the Oscars or the People's Choice awards.

You're confusing the Oscars with prestigious film festivals.
What won at Cannes last year? Or Sundance? Or any of the "prestigious festivals" cited above?

I enjoy movie award ceremonies, but I put absolutely no stock in them.
Old 03-09-05, 08:59 PM
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Hey, I don't use festival awards as gospel but if a film is rewarded in MANY of those festivals, then it's a very good indication of the quality of the film, regardless of your personal tastes.
Old 03-09-05, 11:49 PM
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I agree that the movie was drivel. Imagine a movie commissioned by Castro himself showing Che's life, and that's pretty much what the movie is. He's great, he runs across a number of peasents being dissed by rich white men and we can imagine that this changed him so that he happily murders said rich white men in another 8 years or so.

If it wasn't about Che, the movie would quickly have disappeared.
Old 03-10-05, 12:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Josh Z
What won at Cannes last year? Or Sundance? Or any of the "prestigious festivals" cited above?

I enjoy movie award ceremonies, but I put absolutely no stock in them.

I was not going to engage in a discussion with you however you intentionally (or perhaps unintentionally) are trying to bring some sort of logic in your "arguments" when there is none.

First of all you countered my statement by bringing in the Oscars as a prestigious award ceremony (between the ones I have pointed out above) when I CLEARLY did not include them (for obvious to me and Excentris reasons...and apparently not so obvious to you). Fine.

Only a post later you bring yet another festival to the topic -Sundance- which I never mentioned anywhere in my original post. I suggest if you are going to quote me that you at least stick to what I have typed up in this thread.


Last but not least I would like to answer your initial question to me- Yes, I do consider a handful of international festivals to be a good indicator whether or not a film is worth seeing. The Oscars however (which I intentionally left off) do not appear to be one of them.


Regards,
Pro-B
Old 03-10-05, 08:23 PM
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To each their own, Pro-B. I've seen many films that won numerous prestigious awards that are absolutely worthless drivel (The Son's Room, winner at Cannes and nominated for a Cesar among others comes to mind). I've also seen very good movies that were roundly trashed by all the major critical circles until finding favorable re-evaluation years or decades later.

Film criticism certainly serves a purpose (hey, look at my resume), but it is not an exact science. Especially not award ceremonies, which are, no matter how prestigious they may be, nothing more than crude popularity contests held by highly prejudicial and easily influenced judges.

Last edited by Josh Z; 03-10-05 at 08:41 PM.
Old 03-10-05, 10:10 PM
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The Son's Room is worthless drivel? Damn, have you been attending the Grimfarrow reviewers school?

Last edited by eXcentris; 03-10-05 at 10:25 PM.
Old 03-11-05, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
The Son's Room is worthless drivel? Damn, have you been attending the Grimfarrow reviewers school?
Calling it worthless drivel is being too kind to that picture. It's a Lifetime TV movie with subtitles.
Old 03-11-05, 11:01 PM
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Actually calling that picture "worthless drivel" is just silly hyperbole and not worth discussing.
Old 03-12-05, 12:58 AM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
Actually calling that picture "worthless drivel" is just silly hyperbole and not worth discussing.



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