Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Last night I left work early and went to see the Motorcycle Diaries, a film about a road trip that the man who would become Che Guevara took, made by Walter Salles, starring Gael Garcia Bernal. Notwithstanding the fact that I unconditionally love Walter Salles (High Art, Central Station) and that Gael Garcia Bernal is extemely easy to look at, transfixing actually, this was a good story and so, a very good movie, in that it made me curious to know more about who Ernesto (Che) Guevara really was.

So now I'll read the book that the movie was adapted from, usually it's the other way around. I have a feeling that I will probably like the Che in the movie better than the guy who led the Cuban revolution. If you think about revolutions and the people who've led them, they're usually so passionate and single minded that they're not that much fun. It's like as long as there's one person suffering they feel guilty having a good time - but that's a discussion for another time.

I love everything South American. I am drawn to it as though recognizing a home, or someplace that feels so comfortable, there is a sense of belonging. This film follows the route that 23 year old Ernesto and his 29 year old friend Alberto Granado took on a roadtrip through South America beginning in January 1952. They left from Argentina and traveled through Chile, Peru, Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela - and the movie follows them through most of that trip. They began their trip on the "mighty one" a huge Norton motorcyle that "pees oil." It was amazing to see those countries featured so beautifully in this film and even more amazing were the people.

Their faces were amazing, the mixture of Spanish and Indigenous bone structures, the ancient Incan faces of the people in Peru. Many of the people were obviously culled from the local population and their performances were remarkable. It was easy to see how it could affect a young man to meet these people and to see how they live(d). One of the most moving parts of the movie was when Ernesto and Alberto arrive in San Pablo to volunteer at the hospital for people with Leprosy. The nuns who ran the hospital had a strict policy that rubber gloves were to be worn at all times to avoid physical contact with the patients, even though they were no longer contagious because they were receiving treatment. Ernesto and Alberto refused to do so defying the terrifying Mother Superior, but creating a bond with the people that was very touching.

I've always been fascinated with Leprosy or Hansen's disease ever since I heard about Molokai being a "Leper colony," a term that seemed so biblical and ancient and in reference to a disease that sounded horrific and frightening to a child. My impression was that parts of your body and fact rotted and fell off if you got this horrible scourge and then you were sent to live on an isolated island, or in an isolated village where nuns like Mother Theresa took care of you until you died. In reality most people have a natural immunity and people who have the disease lose limbs and suffer facial abnormality due to nerve damage and infection. Just in case you wanted to know. At any rate the people in the film who played the patients really had leprosy - that wasn't CGI or make up, it was the real deal, and they were marvelous.

By the end of journey Ernesto is so moved by the plight of the people that he has met that he goes on to become Che the revolutionary. A man I am now curious to know more about. Alberto Granado stayed in Venezuela but eventually he went to meet up with his old friend in Cuba where he lives still today. I love that Walter Salles ended the film with black and white film images of the many people that were featured throughout the film and the last shot was a close up of Alberto as he is today, an 82 year old man who lived the story that we had just seen.

So that's one movie off my list of must sees - the rest of them are:

The House of Flying Daggers
A Very Long Engagement
The Incredibles
Finding Neverland
Oceans 12
Meet the Fockers (only because I want to see all these actors together)
Lovesong for Bobby Long
Million Dollar Baby
Lemony Snicket
The Life Aquatic
In Good Company
Bad Education
The Aviator

And these are movies that I would PAY to see. That happens almost never.

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