Five decades from now when SI is long under the ground and all you schmucks have turned into senile dotards donning adult diapers and living in seniors’ centers, the Spanish film The Motorcycle Diaries will continue to delight moviegoers.
For dos reasons, sweeties.
Che Mystique – Burns Bright
First, the flame of the revolutionary Latin American hero Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara will burn as bright 50 years hence as it does today.
You can be sure Che’s iconic face will continue to adorn the front of five billion T-shirts from Malawi to Macau and Mysore to Minsk.
Some 45 years after his execution in Bolivia at the behest of the CIA, Che’s charisma continues to nurture a new generation of revolutionaries across the globe, both the arm-chair and the gun-toting variety.
Much of Che’s mystique and legend is due to his early death and the unfortunate circumstances of his murder.
By the way, the certain way to ensure that history books and the people never forget you is to accomplish something of note and die in your 30s or 40s.
The enduring fame of the butcher Alexander, the masochist Jesus, the lecher JFK, the revolutionary Che and the freedom fighter Bhagat Singh owes as much to their early deaths as to their enterprise and daring.
Second, The Motorcycle Diaries is a very well made movie with first class acting wrapped in a neat script and fine photography.
Directed by Water Salles, the film is based on Che Guevara’s travelog The Motorcycle Diaries and features Mexican actor Gael García Bernal as Ernesto ‘Fuser’ Guevara. The name Che came later.
Argentine actor Rodrigo de la Serna plays Ernesto’s friend Alberto Granado.
Between the two, the Argentine Rodrigo de la Serna is easily the better actor.
Rodrigo’s is a seemingly effortless, natural performance. A joy to watch.
The friends’ journey through the flatlands, the snowy mountains, the small towns, the Atacama desert, on the Amazon river and toward the end volunteering at the lepers colony is extraordinary for the time and well depicted on celluloid.
Theirs is an adventure that’s now impossible. Today, people can leave NYC in the morning and reach the southern tip of South America by night.
The two characters – the lecherous, hyper-libidinous and graceful dancer Alberto and the serious Che, who can’t even dance – are striking in their contrast.
The journey is more than an adventure, laced as it is with comic moments, pathos, parting and great hardship.
The photography is very good, particularly some of the river scenes in the last 20-30 minutes.
If I have a complaint with the movie, it’s that the injustices that Ernesto supposedly witnessed on the journey and turned him into a revolutionary just a few years later could have been highlighted in starker detail.
From Ernesto to Che
Given my ginormous interest in politics and movies, I was eager to watch their intersection in The Motorcycle Diaries.
In my not so humble opinion, the movie will strike a stronger and richer chord with those familiar with the story of Che and his extraordinary life.
Since most of my readers are clueless baboons blissfully ignorant of revolutionary ideologues like Che, Koba or Fidel, they will see this movie merely as a movie.
And that’d be a mighty shame.
For it was the motorcycle trip the 23-year-old Ernesto ‘Fuser’ Guevara took in 1952 with his pal Alberto that sowed the seeds of revolutionary fire in his mind, turning him eventually into Che.
When they embarked on the journey, the future revolutionary was still Ernesto and unknown to the world.
The 10,000+ miles journey in South America, first on a motorbike and then, after the bike becomes junk, by walk and hitchhiking opened Ernesto’s eyes to the enormous injustices and sufferings of the deprived people and to what he considered the unnatural partition of South America into so many nations.
Although The Motorcycle Diaries is just a sliver of Che’s life, it had an enormous impact on his subsequent short life.
Unknown in 1952, Che’s was one of the most recognized faces in the world by 1960.
Che was murdered on October 9, 1967.
The Motorcycle Diaries is a fine movie that all movie buffs ought to consider watching.