Che Moment

“I find it hilarious that people always complain about movies being the same, and then when something different comes along — a film that deals the cards in a different way — they say why isn’t it more conventional?” — Che director Steven Soderbergh reacting to my question about how some critics complained after last night’s screening that Che didn’t have enough in the way of movie moments (backstory, emotional buttons, intimate revealings, etc.)


Che star Benicio del Toro, director Steven Soderbergh during just-concluded press conference — 5.22.08, 12:40 pm.

“There’s the painter who did a portrait of a woman, and when she saw it she said, ‘It doesn’t look like me.’ And the painter replied, ‘Oh, it will.'” — Benicio del Toro responding more or less to the same.

  • GKLondon

    So are you gonna post a recording of anything this year?
    Loved last years audio interviews and press conferences, even for Ocean’s 13 for god’s sake. Still listen to them now.
    Would love to hear Soderbergh and Del Toro discuss what is shaping up to be the talking point of the festival.

  • GKLondon

    And yes, I do hate myself for using the phrase ‘talking point’.

  • http://www.robertcashill.blogspot.com btwnproductions

    CHE schmay. Richard Fleischer got all this in at under two hours 40 years ago. And his had Omar Sharif and Jack Palance.

  • http://Hickenlooper Hickenlooper

    Soderbergh and Jeff make good points. Though I haven’t seen the film, a few of the reviews were so hostile and indicative of the kind of “consumer-guide” mentality that has taken over film criticism. In the the good ol’ days of Cahier du Cinema and Andre Bazin, movies were to be experienced like art, they were to be embraced and felt, almost like a painting. Today the movies are quantified and looked at like a consumer on a shopping spree at Costco. Does this movie have air bags, and GPS to go along with a nice leather interior? Does this film smell and feel like the Happy Meal with the medium fries, cheeseburger and the ever so familiar Ronald McDonald bobble head? It’s this kind of mentality, where a consumer guide like Variety is out looking at the movie with a set of eyes that have been homoginized by a mindset that wreaks of the corpulent consumer on a ravenous consumption of movies, quickly eager to devour, defecate and move onto the next. Why not look at the movie without any context but itself. If critics hadn’t been more open minded, the state of the art of cinema might never have evolved beyond Edwin S. Porter.

  • AH

    I agree with everything Hickenlooper said.
    I would add two things though:
    (1) There are certain movies that are designed to have the expected beats and they should be enjoyed for the artistry that goes into creating those beats; and
    (2) Paragraph breaks my man. Paragraph breaks.

  • Breedlove

    Not to be a dick or anything, but if you’re still listening to the Ocean’s 13 press conference a year later, um, I have some good books I could recommend…

  • mutinyco

    Actually, most of the reviews I’ve read have been positive — HE, Cinematical, Hollywood Reporter, Kenny. It’s just that Variety’s was so violently negative that the water appears so bloody.

  • corey3rd

    George, Cahier du Cinema and Andre Bazin were aimed at a reader that wanted to treat cinema as art. My grandfather liked seeing movies, but he never quoted anything out of Cahier du Cinema. He wanted to know if a movie stunk or would it be worth the hassle of dragging the kids down to the theater or would he be better off waiting for it to appear on the Million Dollar Movie in a few years.
    A majority of people who see movies are consumers. They choose between watching a movie or a sports event or a reality show – the same as picking between the Happy Meal and the McRib. They want to know if they’re going to be entertained or will they spend the entire time asking me “what’s going on?” Is the film viewer friendly or do you have to be a Che expert to understand the action?
    I point to the movie Wonderland. That film is a heaping mess when watched solo. But if you watch the first hour of the Wad documentary that came with the DVD and then watched Wonderland, you’ll understand all the weirdness clearly. Plus you watch the last hour of Wad to see how Holmes’ life played out.
    Maybe instead of an MPAA rating, the poster for certain films should warn viewers how much previous knowledge of a subject they’ll need to enjoy the film.

  • Zimmergirl

    The film wasn’t finished, probably shouldn’t have been screened in the first place, and now will be an albatross. But hey, with all the loot Soderbergh makes he has earned the right to go off the rails once in a while. But yeah, like Spielberg’s Munich – he just needed more time to tinker. Now the lions have shredded the meat. Poor hungry lions.
    Reminds me of:
    http://www.medellinthefilm.com/

  • mutinyco

    You go to the zoo and you get a lion. Stick a remote control bomb up it’s butt… push the button on the bomb and you and the lion die like one.

  • lazarus

    Is that Confucius, mutinyco?

  • p.Vice

    Soderbergh has a bad case of Hollywood AIDS — the soullessness has infected not just his paycheck movies but the supposedly serious ones as well.
    You should’ve asked him what it’s like to smoke the Hollywood pole making three Oceans films and the ultimate shrine to Julia Roberts’s narcissism.

  • GKLondon

    Ok ok breedlove, maybe not the Ocean’s 13 one. I was mainly trying to be encouraging. Outside of Cannes, the Herzog, Fincher and Cuaron chats get regular replays.
    And I’m always open to reading suggestions….

  • http://getmcneil.blogspot.com/ MickTravis

    New deal at Cannes: Steven Soderbergh *IS* Brian Posehn *IN* “The Paul Giamatti Story.”

  • Mgmax, le Corbeau

    I’ll tell you what I find hilarious– that a South American revolution movie has been directed by someone who looks so much like Fielding Mellish.

  • Richardson

    Cuba’s part of North America…
    but, yeah, that’s pretty funny.

  • Richardson

    “A majority of people who see movies are consumers. They choose between watching a movie or a sports event or a reality show – the same as picking between the Happy Meal and the McRib. They want to know if they’re going to be entertained or will they spend the entire time asking me “what’s going on?” Is the film viewer friendly or do you have to be a Che expert to understand the action?”
    I don’t think the people you’re describing read reviews. If they do, certainly not in Variety, they read their local newspaper. And I don’t think there was ever much danger they’d be going to see ‘Che’.

  • rr3333

    Awaiting Soderbergh’s remake of ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ starring himself.

  • Jimmycrackcorn

    “But yeah, like Spielberg’s Munich – he just needed more time to tinker.”
    Huh? When did Spielberg show an unfinished version of Munich?

  • malibugigolo

    Hickenlooper
    Your spot on. This goes on in all forms of “art”. NY “art” gallery reviews are just reasons why you should buy or not buy.
    At least the Variety review just didn’t reprint what the pr notes said the movie was like I’ve seen in the art world and movieland.
    It still wasn’t a review. Just a menu.

  • Mgmax

    I’ll tell you what I find hilarious– that a South American revolution movie has been directed by someone who looks so much like Fielding Mellish.

  • http://www.antidisartsandent.blogspot.com K. Bowen

    *cough* Speed Racer *cough*
    *cough* The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford *cough*

  • gruver1

    Wells to HIckenlooper: Very well put, very well written. Salud.

  • Zimmergirl

    “Huh? When did Spielberg show an unfinished version of Munich?”
    When he released it to the general public. He may have technically been “finished” with it but he rushed it to get it out for Oscar season and, in my opinion, put out an unfinished version. If given more time with it I think it would have been a better movie. It was 2/3rds a great movie. I don’t know what Soderbergh is going to do with this one, though. Anything he cuts significantly will be bitched and moaned about until the end of time by people who saw this version and liked it, which makes me wonder why he felt he had to show it at Cannes.

  • Rich S.

    I’m surprised Jeffrey’s innate fashion sense is allowing Soderbergh to get away with that neck beard.

  • http://journals.aol.com/terrymcca/poetry-arts-confidential/ Terry McCarty

    “I find it hilarious that people always complain about movies being the same, and then when something different comes along — a film that deals the cards in a different way — they say why isn’t it more conventional?”
    I just watched POINT BLANK on DVD the other night with the Soderbergh/Boorman commentary track–and Soderbergh made the interesting point that in the days of the Production Code it was possible to have downbeat endings and now “with all this freedom” filmmakers feel pressured to have everything end on a positive note. This is certainly part of the conventionality Soderbergh rails against in the quote to Jeffrey.

  • http://journals.aol.com/terrymcca/poetry-arts-confidential/ Terry McCarty

    Here’s a link to Emanuel Levy’s take on CHE:
    http://www.emanuellevy.com/article.php?articleID=9992

  • http://journals.aol.com/terrymcca/poetry-arts-confidential/ Terry McCarty

    MickTravis wrote:
    New deal at Cannes: Steven Soderbergh *IS* Brian Posehn *IN* “The Paul Giamatti Story.”
    Maybe it’s time for Roman Polanski to resurrect THE DOUBLE with Soderbergh and Giamatti co-starring.

  • mutinyco

    For anybody who cares about yesterday’s brief discussion. I spoke to RED earlier today and was told the movie was downrezzed from 4k to a 2k ProRes for Cannes screening.

  • Chris Baumgardt

    One of the things I find interesting about many of the reviews or quick blurbs is that they talk about the movie being “not commercial” as their major dismissal of it.
    Now I am sure the people responsible for the movie would love to make their money back, but what made any one think 2 full movies about CHE were gunning to be the next Iron Man. If these people had some other reason to pan the film itself I would listen more, but just calling it non-commercial is lazy at best.

  • Richardson

    “I’m surprised Jeffrey’s innate fashion sense is allowing Soderbergh to get away with that neck beard.”
    And his thinning hair!

  • bmcintire

    George – when did Variety become a “consumer guide?” Last time I checked, it and The Hollywood Reporter were still trade papers.
    Thus the irritating, yet completely germane “not commercial” as a final dismissal. The films’ non-commercial apsects are also what have kept the pair from being picked up by anyone yet. No studio wants to be left holding the revenue-less “art” project in between his OCEAN’S cash payouts. Witness the happy faces at Fox and Warner when you bring up THE GOOD GERMAN and SOLARIS.

  • fielding

    I’m glad no one’s bought this garbage yet, and I don’t feel the slightest bit of sympathy for the idiots who gave this pretentious creep $60 million to make it.

  • Mgmax, le Corbeau

    The New York Times says it’s the whitewash we all feared:
    There is a lot, however, that the audience will not learn from this big movie, which has some big problems as well as major virtues. In between the two periods covered in “Che,” Guevara was an important player in the Castro government, but his brutal role in turning a revolutionary movement into a dictatorship goes virtually unmentioned. This, along with Benicio Del Toro’s soulful and charismatic performance, allows Mr. Soderbergh to preserve the romantic notion of Guevara as a martyr and an iconic figure, an idealistic champion of the poor and oppressed. By now, though, this image seems at best naïve and incomplete, at worst sentimental and dishonest. More to the point, perhaps, it is not very interesting.

  • Mgmax

    The New York Times says it’s the whitewash we all feared:

    There is a lot, however, that the audience will not learn from this big movie, which has some big problems as well as major virtues. In between the two periods covered in “Che,” Guevara was an important player in the Castro government, but his brutal role in turning a revolutionary movement into a dictatorship goes virtually unmentioned. This, along with Benicio Del Toro’s soulful and charismatic performance, allows Mr. Soderbergh to preserve the romantic notion of Guevara as a martyr and an iconic figure, an idealistic champion of the poor and oppressed. By now, though, this image seems at best naïve and incomplete, at worst sentimental and dishonest. More to the point, perhaps, it is not very interesting.

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