Motorcycle Diaries, The (USA/Germany/UK/Argentina ; 128 min.)

directed by: Walter Salles
starring: Gael García Bernal; Rodrigo De La Serna
Diarios de Motocicleta
Chris says: "After reading Gerald Peary's scathing review earlier this year in his Cannes 2004 report (likening it to the wretched LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL!), I feared the worst for this biopic about the young Ernesto 'Che' Guevara.

"It's not nearly as reprehensible as Roberto Benigni's feel-good/bad-taste abomination, but it's still not a great film. It has that faux-prestigious "Oscar-Approved" stamp all over it. The obvious parallels to Kerouac's On the Road highlight how much depth it lacks in comparison. And worst, it occasionally lapses into sentimental mush, especially in a particularly hokey climactic sequence that would be hard to believe if it didn't come out of the memoir this screenplay is an adaptation of.

"As director Walter Salles' CENTRAL STATION was partially redeemed by a grand lead performance from Fernanda Montenegro, for me, this film just squeaks by due to a good one from Gael García Bernal as Guevara. As written, his character is a bit of a saintly cipher, but he manages to inject some life and soul into what he's given. His scenes with Rodrigo De La Serna, who plays sidekick/co-traveler Alberto Granado,
are charming and well-done. And I admit their parting at the film's conclusion choked me up a little.

"As a Latin American travelogue, this is pretty sublime, with two underdogs roaming from Argentina to the Andes, traveling for the sake of travel. As a social critique and an examination of the issues/conditions that influenced Guevara to become the revolutionary 'Che,' however, it's not as convincing. In all, the film plays like an inspirational, romanticized, glossy magazine-spread account of a life-changing road trip. Your enjoyment of it will depend on how compelling or trite that prospect sounds to you. 3 cats"

Hilary says: "The heavy-handed Jesus imagery killed this one for me, particularly the protracted leper colony sequences. This film is in need of a good editor!

"That being said, it will be getting noms for Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actor from me. I generally love Gael García Bernal but I need to mull over nom'ing him. (I am VERY ready to see him in BAD EDUCATION, however.)"

Michael says: "Thanks to Peg for supplying the Chlotrudis Monday Night at the Movies crew with free passes to Walter Salles' THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES; I'm very glad I didn't pay money to see it. It wasn't a film I was all that keen on seeing anyway, so a free screening was just perfect.

"As many of you know, I'm not wild about biopics (except for the half dozen that Esme reminded me I loved); nor am I ga-ga over Gael García Bernal as many people are, so there wasn't a whole lot about THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES that called out to me. That said, I was enjoying the first half of the film more than I expected. This tale of Che Guevara's youth traveling through South America with his close buddy Rodrigo De la Serna, was refreshingly free of histrionics, violence, and melodrama. It did give a sense of where Guevara's passionate revolutionary tendencies were spawned. The
cinematography was terrific, as Hilary pointed out, and the acting was fine.

"About halfway through, however, I started to realize that we were watching a movie about St. Guevara. Not once did Che lose his temper, raise his voice, or act inappropriately. Surely this man had some flaws. When, despite his recurring, near-life-threatening asthma, Guevara swam across the Amazon River in the middle of the night to spend his birthday with a leper colony, I was pushed right over the edge. I can see the where the LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL comparison's that Gerry Peary mentions in his review could be seen. Although, I agree with Chris, THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES didn't reach the lows that film did (barely). Still, I can only give this film 1 cat."


Peg says: "Gosh. I loved it, as did my companion. Ran into Jim Verniere of the Herald yesterday who also said he loved it.

"I think I was so captivated by the mood the film creates, the haunting imagery, that I did not have time to pick apart anything minor. It made me feel like a film trying to describe the way it often feels when we sometimes remember 'snapshot' events when we probe our memories deeply...I don't think it was trying to be a realistic depiction so much as trying to capture a lost youthful idealism and romance. The point seemed to be that a young traveller does indeed tend to write extreme things in his journal--we were all full of ourselves and could do no wrong. I think this film captured that sense of vaunted, 'remembered' innocence and idealism very well.

"I thought the ending felt a bit rushed, but the journey to get there was so beautiful I did not mind. Other than that, I thought it was pretty much flawless. I'm with those folks in Venice who gave it a standing ovation. 4 cats"

Bruce says: "I was a great fan of CENTRAL STATION but in retrospect I realize it was only the acting that dazzled me. BEHIND THE SUN was hopelessly predictable. THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES is a lovely, warm film that drags here and there. Salles, as a director, leaves me generally unimpressed.

"THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES is based on the writings of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna who became Che Guevara later in life. With only a semester of medical school to go Ernesto (Gael Garcia Bernal) decides his priority is to travel and learn about his continent. A friend, older and with a motorcycle, talks him into the trip. Soon, with the blessings of his upper middle class family, Ernesto and Alberto Granada (Rodrigo De la Serna) leave Buenos Aires and head toward Patagonia. The two boys think they will see beautiful sights, drink a lot and get laid everywhere. The first half of the film chronicles their adventures and awe of their own magnificent country and some of Chile.

"In Chile, the unexpected happens. Ernesto and Alberto meet a miner and his wife. A land speculator has forced them off the land that the miner had inherited from his grandfather. Now he is forced to beg with hoards of other men for daily work in the Anaconda mines, an appalling reality for the two middle-class boys.

"Further along, they meet a doctor who is their entrée for working at a leper colony. Ernesto defies rules by shaking hands with the lepers and Alberto follows suit. Soon the nuns, particularly the Mother Superior, are up-in-arms over the boys’ recalcitrance and irreverence. After three weeks Ernesto decides to spend his last night with the lepers who live on the other side of the Amazon so he swims across. By the time Ernesto and Alberto leave they have earned the respect of everyone largely because Ernesto has a uncanny gift of communicating and connecting with person he meets. When Alberto decides to take a job in Caracas, Ernesto accompanies him there and they part, not to see each other for eight more years. The trip has transformed their lives in ways they could not imagine.

"I was moved by the story, how this trip was such a defining factor in the establishment of personal philosophies which ultimately shape Ernesto’s and Alberto’s lives. I feel the film is uneven in pace, at times dragging along rather than moving along. What also left me a bit cold is the cinematography. I had heard how beautiful it was. Quite honestly I found the subject matter thrilling but the cinematography a bit drab and dull. Having only been to Argentina and Brazil in South America, I only have first-hand knowledge of a small part of their trip, but almost every photo or film I have seen of Manchu Pichu has been much more beautiful and alive than what I saw here.

"Gael Garcia Bernal is an excellent Ernesto. He is self assured even when his character is believably not so. Rodrigo De la Serna is less charismatic and not even very likable at the beginning of the film. That was, of course, the point. A great companion piece to this film is Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia. 4 cats

Thom says: "When I first saw previews of this film which now seems like years ago it didn't really catch my interest, but after so many rave reviews and my sincere love for Gael Garcia Bernal, I finally rented the DVD, just released. The film was quite involving and I was left with a feeling of thoughtfulness, wanting to know more of how this young man turned in to the revolutionary. I loved the scenes in the leper colony. But I think Bernal played his Che Guevara as too saintly. He might well have been, but a little more passion could have been shown. Rodrigo De la Serna was excellent as his buddy. Why was it called THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, when the motorcycle was destroyed halfway through the film? While some of the films of the South American countryside were lovely the scenes from Machu Picchu were dreadful. I've seen this site in many photographs all of them more striking than the ones in this film. While I have no doubt that rural South America had many examples of the huge division between rich and poor, I would have liked to have seen more aspects of this than what was shown. 4 CATS"