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'Motorcycle Diaries' is first great Che biopic

photo courtesy of FOCUS FEATURES
Che Guevara (Gael García Bernal) and his buddy Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De La Serna) take a road trip that changes them forever in "Motorcycle Diaries." Guess which one becomes a violent revolutionary.
By Celeste Meiffren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 7, 2004
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We've all seen the shirts and the lighters and the wallets. Che Guevara's face has become omnipotent in contemporary American culture. These days, Che represents socialism, rebellion, individualism and justice. But before he made such a large impression on the lives of liberals around the globe, he was just a kid looking for adventure.

"Motorcycle Diaries" chronicles the journey that Ernesto Guevara took with his friend Alberto Granado in 1952. At the time, they were both in medical school in Argentina and in need of a break to see the great land of South America. Think of Kerouac's "On The Road" set in Argentina in the '50s. Or that road trip you took last year to Vegas - only without the binge drinking and prostitutes.

Traveling on one beat-up motorcycle for thousands of miles, the friends find joy in each other. Their relationship becomes the springboard for their respective personal transformations.

Motorcycle Diaries

8 out of 10

Focus Features
Rated: PG
126 min.
Opens tomorrow

Inevitably, the men become acquainted with both the beautiful landscapes and the stark injustices that are a sort of trademark for the continent. Guevara is the most deeply affected by the disenfranchised, and becomes emotionally invested in reversing the injustices.

The cinematography is gorgeous. The landscape becomes a living, breathing part of the movie. The beautiful shots are only overshadowed by the great performances.

The main goal of "Motorcycle Diaries" is to show how a privileged medical student from Argentina was able to transform, in a matter of months, into a freedom fighter.

Taken directly from the diaries of Guevara and Granado, this movie is not only historically accurate, but also very personal. The intimacy comes out of the excellent acting.

The performance of Gael Garcia Bernal as Che is as close to perfect as any I've ever seen. He is able to portray Che's strengths and vulnerabilities and how they both contribute to his overwhelming humanitarian nature.

The most poignant moments come out of Guevara's bad case of asthma. Throughout the picture, this becomes a barrier of great significance. The filmmakers use his asthmatic plight to prove Che's selflessness. He willingly gives a dying woman his asthma pills so that she may die with dignity. He connects with a leper in a leprosy colony in Peru, and gains her trust by telling her that he got involved in medicine because of his own health imperfections.

Through Che's willingness to sacrifice his own interest for the happiness of others, we are able to see exactly how he came to be as famous as he is, and why he has had such a profound impact on how the world sees the disenfranchised.

I admit that I own a Che shirt. I know what he did during the Cuban revolution and all of the political and social values that he stood for. I think more important than his politics and his involvement in the revolution is his innate humanity.

I now wear my Che shirt with a deeper sense of the man, instead of just the figure. He is truly one of the most impressive people of the twentieth century.

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