Thanks to glimmer for the tip to Amy Taubin’s excellent piece about Che in the September/October issue of Film Comment:
What Soderbergh terms ‚Äúthe call and response‚Äù relation between The Argentine and Guerrilla is intrinsic to their form and meaning. The Argentine depicts the 1956-58 campaign in Cuba‚Äôs Sierra Maestra and ends in glory with Che and Fidel en route to Havana. Guerrilla follows Che‚Äôs disastrous attempt to repeat the Cuban strategy in Bolivia in order to spearhead a revolution throughout Latin America. Largely based on two books written by Che, Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War and Bolivian Diary, The Argentine and Guerrilla are action films, couched from the perspective of the man who was at the center of the action‚Äîwho experienced the physical agony and the adrenaline rush of guerrilla warfare (heightened because he was asthmatic) and who, because he was a military strategist fighting for a political cause and ideology he articulated with great brilliance, also saw himself and his situation from the outside. The character of Che Guevara (embodied by Benicio Del Toro with intelligence and an unflagging conviction) gives rise to the push/pull experience of both films, the sense that one is both immersed and distanced.
Details about tbe unique distribution plans after the cut.
The Argentine and Guerrilla will premiere in North America at the Toronto Film Festival and then play in the New York Film Festival, showing, as in Cannes, back to back with a short intermission. According to Soderbergh this ‚Äúroad-show‚Äù version will open for limited one-week engagements in some 20 cities at the end of the year‚Äîa year that marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution and the 80th anniversary of Guevara‚Äôs birth. ‚ÄúI think, for hardcore people who have a day to throw away, it‚Äôs the fun way to see it because all the call and response is right there,‚Äù he says. The two films will then be split up. In the foreign territories where Che was pre-sold (the pre-sales covering $54 million of the $58 million budget) there are, to Soderbergh‚Äôs knowledge, no plans to show the two films together. Given that Che is already nearly paid for, the movie only needs to do enough business in the U.S. to cover the cost of prints and advertising. ‚ÄúThe definition of what is financial success for us in this country may not be good enough for people who write about movies,‚Äù the director said with barely detectable irony, ‚Äúbut if this movie does $5 million and then sells a couple hundred thousand units on DVD, we‚Äôll be very happy with those numbers.‚Äù
It’s a great article, thick with detail and significant insight. It would do as much injustice to Amy Taubin to try and summarize her piece as it would destroy The Argentine and Guerrilla to try to combine and condense them in any form other than what Soderbergh intended. So if you’re interested in this movie, it’ll be hard to find a better article than this one. (If you do, please let us know.)