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December 16, 2008


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Lord Henry

Sam Fuller's VERBOTEN?

Glenn Kenny

Yea, and additionally, verily.


BARF IT OUT! also, throw up.

wait: what? oh, right, this --


also, sam fuller is my dogg, dogg. (get it?) also, can i see _che_ already? like, soon? i kinda _need_ to.

Lord Henry

The use of the word "bluntness" was a giveaway.

Gotta love Nabokov and his index cards. Why do they move seats? That's hilarious!

Only seen CHE:PART ONE here in London so far. Hoping PART TWO is better.

Tony Dayoub


That looks like a heck of a more interesting discussion of "Che" than the one I attended at the NYFF. You would have thought from the heckling going on that it was taking place in my hometown of Miami.

You should see the kind of ignorant negative comments I've gotten at my site simply for reviewing the film, even though I agree that Che was hardly a hero, a point I felt Soderbergh adequately makes in the film.

BTW, Corliss' review in Time almost seems like he's brownnosing to the Miami Cuban Mafia:

"As Roger Ebert put it: "No attempt is made to get inside the mind of this complex man, Guevara. We are told he was a medical student, suffered from asthma, was more ruthless than Castro, was the real brain behind the operation. Big deal. ... When we aren't getting newsreels, we're getting routine footage of guerrilla clashes in the jungle. ... All this movie inspires toward the Cuban Revolution is excruciating boredom..."

Ebert wrote this in 1969, in a review of the flop Hollywood bio-pic Che!, with the not-very-Latin Omar Sharif as Guevara. Yet most of Ebert's denunciations apply to Soderbergh's movie, which dispenses with the exclamation point — and with almost all of the compelling, sometimes contradictory drama in Che Guevara's life."

Did he see the same movie? Here's the entire review for those who are interested:



In his "Best of 2008" list, Ebert includes "Che", and he refers to Guevara as a "fiercely ethical firebrand". I can't imagine why some people are upset.

Glenn Kenny

Well, that's just bizarre, Bill. Soderbergh himself isn't crazy about Guevara's "ethics."

In other news: Dirty Harry—yes, Dirty Harry—in a brief post says "the film's pretty magnificent." His full review is on its way.


Hurm. That Dirty Harry blurb does surprise me. I've been intrigued by this film -- the idea of it, anyway -- all along, but I've never been quite able to shake my deep reservations. I won't know what I think until I see it, and I hope I see it that way you and Harry did, but I still can't blame people for being angry. You read Ebert's words, you hear Del Toro's nonsense, and your back can't help but go up.


I saw that blurb from Dirty Harry and I'm looking forward to the review. I go back and forth on the guy; I read his review praising "An American Carol" and my first thought was "this is all about politics, not filmcraft".

That he actually likes the film makes me genuinely curious about "Che"...which is pretty remarkable, considering my distaste for the subject.

Ellen Kirby

Very much agreed with your thoughts on Fuller at the end of your article, and your use of words like sincerity and fierce earnestness connect (to me, anyway) to some of my own recent viewing and another fella who, while hardly in the same league as Fuller, has sometimes had his virtues overlooked due to his penchant for purple prose. The recent viewing is the second season of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, a show I adored as an 8-10-year-old. Certainly not nightmare-inducing like it was back then, visually often pretty meh (due to microbudgeting and the prevalent style of TV shows back then) and a number of the stories either just lie there or are actively embarrassing. But there's also a number of goodies that hold up well (like the near-operatically intense "Sins of the Fathers," with the future John-Boy Walton being nudged one step at a time by mom Geraldine Page into the family business of sin-eating, or "The Caterpillar," with Laurence Harvey giving a very convincing depiction of what it would be like to have the knowledge that there was an earwig crawling around in your head, eating as it went) and a sizable number of them are Serling's, like "Class of '99," (presided over wonderfully by Vincent Price) - that one has a message, but even though his points were often obvious, as you've mentioned, Glenn, they were also just as often good points, and when he goes light on the bombast he can still make me say dayum...

Tom Carson

Not to be entirely malicious, GK. Well, ok, some. Can you give us your take on what Fuller would have made of Soderbergh's CHE in terms of cinematic directness and fidelity to the politics and ethics of its subject? Just wondering.

Glenn Kenny

What Fuller would have made of it, or what Fuller would have made if he were making a picture about the same subject? Okay, maybe that's dodging the question. As a staunch anti-communist, Fuller would probably find plenty to object to. As a guy who wasn't above fetishizing Men With Guns, he might have found plenty to dig, as well. The Che I see in Soderbergh's picture isn't Ebert's "fiercely ethical firebrand." In any case, anyone who knows Che's political practice at all also knows that ethics as we understand them are therein dismissed as a strain of bourgeois sentimentality (cf various and sundry pensees of Joshua Clover, if you can stomach them, as well as some of the less widely-heralded pronouncements of Slavoj Zizek for some contemporary manifestations of this perspective). I know that Soderbergh doesn't share Guevara's ideology and I don't think the film does, either. I think what he does here is akin to Rossellini's historical recreations of the '60s and early '70s—though when I brought that up at the Q&A, the head-scratching in the audience had a distince resemblance to the sound of crickets chirping. I believe Soderbergh got the reference, though.

Tom Carson

I feel supremely nailed by the Rossellini analogy, since I love those movies and can see the resemblance. But isn't it an important difference that in that phase Rossellini was dealing with topics 200 to 400 years old? For good and (mostly) ill, the real Che very much affects our shared present. Movies are a contingent art, something Fuller devoted his life to demonstrating.

My hunch is that both he and Rossellini knew the difference between THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS and THE SCARLET EMPRESS. That's why Fuller spent his career pretending THE SCARLET EMPRESS was THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS and RR spent his doing just the opposite. I'm not sure Soderbergh grasps the difference or would care, though, which is why he bugs me.

Glenn Kenny

Well, one reason I'm glad "Che" exists is because I hope to see it inspire some thoughtful debate about both historical and aesthetic practice. A good number of the knee-jerk conservative "Che" haters condemn Soderbergh as a moral monster; it looks as if you're pegging him as a willful naif of sorts. I will cede that in the case of "Che" his wonkiness may have also yielded a particular myopia. As you know, I'm no fan of Guevera, and the very fact that Del Toro very clearly and unabashedly sees the project as valorizing Che, while Soderbergh does not, speaks to some of the contradictions inherent in the project.

In any case, I'm sure you'll enjoy his next film much better!

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