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Che!

Twilight Time // PG // September 9, 2014 // Region 0
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Screenarchives]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted October 1, 2014 | E-mail the Author

Director Richard Fleischer's Che! (Tora! Tora! Tora!) is probably best left forgotten. The concept of the film is to focus upon revolution leader Che Guevara during the period of Che's arrival in Cuba during the mid-1950's to his death following an ambush in 1967. The story is partially told as a dramatic narrative with some emphasis on showcasing parts of the Cuban revolution, but it's also in-part a pseudo-documentary with newsreel footage and fake (bad quality) interviews with characters who give information on Che. Made less than two years following Che's death and met with poor reviews on release, Che! is now making it's Blu-ray debut from Twilight Time. 


Starring Omar Sharif as Che Guevara and Jack Palance as Fidel Castro, the film feels almost comedic at times because it can tend to seem like it is actually parodying a real documentary produced on Che. Besides the fact the film made bizarre casting decisions for the leads, Sharif and Palance both attempt the most they can out of their roles. Yet it's clear how miscast both of these performers are and the film is dramatically affected by this attribute. It's typical Hollywood and not something that makes for a more convincing and immersive film experience. While these performers try the best they can to do well with the weak script written by Michael Wilson and Sy Bartlett, one can't help but find the performances unconvincing. Sharif tries to make Che a poetic and graceful presence amongst his supporters in a way that feels staged and theatrical... less genuine for such a controversial historical character. Plance even performs Castro with a sort of modesty which is a bad contrast to the history behind this feature film.


Che! certainly never feels like a genuinely ambitious film that is attempting to make something profound or enlightening. Instead, it feels like a cobbled together cliff-notes version of a highly sanitized textbook that is meant to appeal to both those who felt they hated Che Guevara and those audiences who considered him a hero. No matter one's opinion on Che, one won't walk away from viewing this film with new opinions or enlightenment on the matter- it's bland and non-political in that the filmmakers perspectives are never indicated during the entire course of the film. The producers of course were likely swayed to make the film based on the fact Che culturally led to a massive popularity that couldn't have been predicted -- one which led to a big wave of pop cultural sales in t-shirts, mugs, artwork, and other "for-sale" collectibles emblazoning Che in successful marketing ganders at every turn during the time (and that continues to this day). Everything about Che! feels as though it rides on this success and is the main reason for Hollywood producing the film. This is not a film effort determined to be something of significance in the world of historical dramas.

One of the things about this film that is particularly annoying is how badly staged the fake interviews are done. The camera pans right up to the interviewee, who is always boldly in spotlighted position, and making some claim about Che to the audience directly. One scene features a character saying something good about Che. The next has another character saying something negative about him. Both impressions will fail to make much impression upon the audience as these feel like readings of text and not as if these were actual characters who had ever even met or encountered Che. It is a poor job in dramatization.

The film meanders during much of the run-time as well. It focuses too much time on the battle sequences:  showcasing scenes which are poorly staged and feel inessential to the story. These moments merely serve to showcase constant gun-fire and an array of loud sounds. Yet there is never any sense of the film trying to properly portray war or the way these people were affected by being in war. The loudness and chaos of it simply feels like a staged Hollywood production as it so often does. This is a far cry from success for a film that surrounds a story about a revolution.

Director Richard Fleischer has made a film that feels uneventful even as it is trying to portray an important historical figure and time-period. The scenes are poorly paced and the flow of the film seems stunted. Accompanying the average direction is uninteresting cinematography by Charles F. Wheeler. The film lacks a truly colorful palette and has a static style that doesn't fluctuate or experiment creatively. Released to a number of negative reviews (including a brilliantly scathing one written by Roger Ebert), the film still somehow managed to stir up controversy on its theatrical release despite being a relatively disinterested take on the story and person that flounders more than it ever takes off flight. Che! is a massive misfire that isn't really worth one's time. By the film's conclusion, the lack of any stance or view on the characters behind the story, including (or especially) Che Guevara makes the entire experience and it's lackadaisical creativity morose and disappointing. Anyone wanting to learn about Che will find that the film has little to offer in that regard. Viewers are more likely to encounter boredom than anything of interest. One would be better off taking a afternoon nap than encountering this debacle of uninspired filmmaking.

The Blu-ray:


Video:

Che! is presented on Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition presentation in the 2.37:1 aspect ratio. The film is surprisingly dull and drab looking in terms of the cinematography but this isn't something that has to do with the encoding. The presentation from Twilight Time is an acceptably strong presentation that shows no signs of any digital alterations and has a quality presentation for presenting the (admittedly weak) source material. While no real signs of any damage appear on the film, it simply lacks a truly impressive image. The source has a muted color scheme, film grain can appear noisy and inconsistent, and while clarity on the presentation is reasonable this is a generally soft film. It all adds up to a modest HD presentation that should please fans despite the aged and less than stellar source utilized.   

Audio:

The included DTS-HD Master Audio Mono presentation offers a modest lossless audio quality that is acceptable given the age of the materials. The audio is lacking good dynamic range and can sound a bit harsh during some of the sequences, but this seems to be source-related. As to vocal clarity on the Blu-ray disc, the presentation is solid and this is what matters most so the lack of a good range within the audio material is acceptable if somewhat underwhelming too.  

Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing).


Extras:

 

Vintage Featurette (6 min.) opens with asking the audience 'Why Che?' -- a question that the audience will be asking themselves too after watching this motion-picture. It's a reasonably engaging supplement, though. For such a short piece it has some good behind the scenes material.

A brief TV Spot (21 sec.) and, the original theatrical trailer (3 min.) have been provided, showcasing the advertising campaign element for the film's release.

Twilight Time has also included a lossless 2.0 stereo presentation score only track so that fans wanting to hear the isolated work of composer Lalo Schifrin can enjoy in this aspect. This is a presentation delivered with DTS-HD Master Audio encoding.

Final Thoughts:

Che! is a poorly made  historical biopic for a figure that has been debated by many over the years. One might expect to find a movie that looks to examine the person and history surrounding Che but instead the film barely even emphasizes the history of the revolution and instead mainly offers up badly scripted dialogue and strangely realized action-sequences with little to no depth to accompany the proceedings. Twilight Time has done a commendable job with the quality of the Blu-ray release, though. Anyone who is a fan of the film is still encouraged to get this edition (even if the source was obviously dated and perhaps not entirely ideal). Newcomers are encouraged to simply skip the film altogether.

Skip It.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.


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