Friday, October 08, 2004

The Motorcycle Diaries Directed by Walter Salles

A bio-pic about Ernesto Guevara (you might know him better as "Che.") Also, a road film. Also, a coming-of-age story. Also, a biker film. Also, a buddy picture. If those last few sentences seem laced with a subtle disdain, than you're starting to understand what I disliked about The Motorcycle Diaries. It has so many focal points that the filmmaker is left with far too many themes to adequately convey. The main problem is not the plethora of themes, though. The main problem is that said themes are presented in such a matter-of-fact manner that there is zero room left for interpretation.

Essentially, Ernesto (Gael Garcia Bernal of Y Tu Mama Tambien fame) and pal, Alberto (Rodrigo de la Serna), embark on a 8000 KM motorcycle trip to see, in person, the whole of South America. And we watch. We watch them drive, we watch them crash, we watch them beg favors, we watch them reach epiphany after epiphany.

(Now: a break from the scathing sarcasm.)

It really isn't bad. I was involved in the story, and, a 20 minute section excepting, never bored.

(Ok: back to the vitriol.)

When the credits rolled at the end, all became clear. Executive Producer: Robert Redford. "Whoa, whoa - did he just diss Redford?" No, I didn't. Actually, until very recently, Redford's A River Runs Through It was in my Top 100. I am saying that Redford is a very American man, with very American sensibilities. He saw something in this film that appealed to him, and I would venture to say it was the pseudo-epiphanic weight that this story holds. (For a history of the P-EW plague in American Film see American Beauty, A Beautiful Mind, Et Cetera.) The burden is partly on myself, actually. I was not expecting an A-B, everything has serious gravity and resolution film - but that is what I got.

We are continually reminded that Ernesto will grow up to become "Che." Therefore, each step he takes is loaded with the weight of a revolution. To further elucidate the heft of the situation, each epiphanic moment is given an encore in black&white that would make Dorothea Lange drool. It adds up to too much. As a member of the audience, (paying, I should add) I felt like a card in Alice in Wonderland - being played when I didn't necessarily want to be played. Each B&W moment says, "Look. Look here. Look right the fuck here." For a film to laser the viewer's attention in that manner, it better have something important to say. And this film does not.

Once again, seeing The Motorcycle Diaries was not a terrible theater experience. I generally enjoyed myself. The real mark of the thing is that, not 20 minutes after I left the theater, I was done thinking about the film.


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