Published on April 10th, 2006 | by admin


The Motorcycle Diaries

By Simone Ubaldi

Che Guevara did more than revolutionise the T-shirt industry. A bloody baron of the Cuban revolution and hero of the socialist cause throughout South America, Guevara has passed into popular consciousness as a stone-faced militant, but there was once a compassionate and joyful man under the beret.

In Walter Salles excellent film The Motorcycle Diaries, based on Guevara’s journals and a book by his one-time friend Alberto Granada, the early life of this cultural icon is laid out in warm detail. Specifically, the film follows a road trip around the continent that was taken by Che and Alberto as young men. They laugh, they love, they get laid and, eventually, they learn to see every man as their brother.

The Motorcycle Diaries shows the birth of Guevara’s purpose, but it is by no means a biopic in the traditional sense (the kind where every event seems to salute what we already know about the subject going in). It blossoms out of a simple buddy flick into a beautiful photographic expedition and only towards the end becomes a story about destiny. Through most of Argentina and Chile, Che (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Ernesto (Rodrigo De La Serna) play for laughs, in Peru they get quieter and by the time they land in a leper colony in Brazil both men have a sombre edge to their smiles. Then you begin to see history happening.

Once again, Bernal shows the intelligence behind his chest pain inducing beauty. With equal parts passion and play, his Che is fervent, lively and utterly convincing. De La Serna is truly fantastic as his lusty and lusting best friend, and there’s a beguiling natural rhythm between the two of them. The supporting cast is exceptional and the cinematography is effortlessly stunning, but it’s their story that will win you over. It won’t make Che’s myth any less potent, but The Motorcycle Diaries will certainly make him more human.

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