Posted tagged ‘benicio del toro’

Radical differences: a guide to telling your revolutionary biopics apart

October 27, 2008
A big beret to fill

A big beret to fill

Tomorrow night at the Walter Reade Theater, Film Comment Selects a biopic of a certain fatigue-sporting folk hero best known for leading the Cuban revolution.

Wait a second, you say, didn’t Che already make a rare appearance in it’s four-and-a-half-hour glory during the New York Film Festival? Yes, but that was the Steven Soderbergh-directed Che.

Benicio Del Toro as Che

This, my friends, is the rarely screened 1969 classic starring Omar Sharif embodying the indelible visage of emblazoned upon the threadbare t-shirts of grad students everywhere. And between Richard Fleischer’s blast-from-the-past biopic Che! and Soderbergh’s groundbreaking Spanish-language epic, there are some radical differences. To wit…

Omar Sharif as Che!

Omar Sharif as Che!


Soderbergh (Che): Famous for putting Sundance on the map with 1989’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape.

Fleischer (Che!): Famous for helming the film that brought the world the phrase: “…is made out of people!!!”

Castro was played by…

Che: Demián Bichir, a Mexican actor

Che!: Jack Palance, the famous one-armed push-up doing Oscar winner


Che: working characteristically fast and loose, Soderbergh shot Che himself, using a brand-new hi-def camera called The RedONE. The first half of the film was shot in anamorphic, while the second half was confined to a less wide-screen scope. [Watch Soderbergh talk about his process in an exclusive Film Society Q&A]

Che!: Widescreen all the way–this feature was pure Hollywood production.

If you saw Che, or even the Motorcycle Diaries, Che! is a new lens on understanding a pivotal historical moment. And it just goes to show: one exclamation point can mean a world of difference.

Buy your tickets now: Tue Oct 28: 6:35

NYFF wrap-up: share your memories

October 16, 2008

FilmCatcher’s Damon Smith writes about some of the moments in his interviews with NYFF directors that didn’t make the final cut.

Ron Savin delivers his annual “Tale from the Titles.”

Talk/Party at the New York Film Festival

Photo by tamaradulva, from our Flickr pool


Photo by Susan Sermoneta, official filmlinc blog photographer, and member of our Flickr pool

Mike Leigh

Photo by The Back Row Manifesto, from our Flickr pool

What are your NYFF ’08 memories? Share them in the comments. Have photos? Add them to our Flickr pool.

How Soderbergh’s Che sets the bar for the biopic

October 9, 2008

Benicio Del Toro as Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Steven Soderbergh’s sweeping four-and-a-half-hour long biopic Che is a stunning masterwork of documentarian vision, likely to set the bar for future works of historical biography brought to film. Profiling Argentinean revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara in both the highlight and lowlight of his life in the mid-twentieth century, Soderbergh brings to the screen an account of Guevara’s successes and defeats that is both magnificently crafted and consistently engaging. Che is divided in two halves, the first about Guevara’s triumphant campaign of motivating a socialist revolutionary movement in Cuba to overthrow the government of United States-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, and the second about his attempt to incite a similar yet unsuccessful guerrilla movement in Bolivia that ultimately led to his execution.

The film unfolds with a brave, objectivist stance that never wavers or never seems to lapse into the gratuitous fictional liberties that could overtake such a biopic as this. Onscreen, Benicio Del Toro as Guevara is a force; his conviction alone anchors the film and allows the viewer to sympathize with Che yet not at all times believe his choices to be correct. Del Toro emphasizes Guevara’s nonnegotiable desire for his guerrilla army to be educated and self-aware, and perhaps it is this sole trait that accentuates his undeniable charisma. Che pulls out a few cute casting surprises (Julia Ormond and Franka Potente are both welcome surprises), but heralds Del Toro as the rightful and undeniable star of the show.

The first portion of the film intercuts Guevara’s 1958/1959 campaign in Cuba with his speech before the United Nations General Assembly in New York City in 1964. Soderburgh shows us New York in black and white, with the handheld-camera style of a documentary, punctuating Guevara’s preparation for his speech with snippets of an interview for American television. In contrast, Cuba is given the full-color treatment for the lush Caribbean jungle, and the viewer is treated to a sly (but never lecture-like) history lesson about the 26 Julio socialist movement in Cuba and how Fidel Castro, with Che by his side, rose to power. From the jungle to the streets of the city, Che’s guerrilla army grows in number and in strength; those looking for the punch of an action film certainly won’t leave disappointed after scenes showing a dazzling display of choreographed combat.

Once the second half of the film gains its momentum, it becomes clear how Guevara’s fervor and perhaps overconfidence in charging a socialist uprising throughout the world led directly to his downfall. His campaign in Bolivia was predicated on his success in Cuba, and it is to Che’s detriment that he did not understand that the people of Bolivia were not in need or of a desire for a grassroots uprising. Soderbergh shows us a Bolivia that is harsher, drier, and less navigable than Cuba, and this contrast highlights the confidence of his directorial eye (and, to boot, doesn’t disappoint with his trademark saturation of color when the ambient hues of the dawn and dusk allow for it).

Che is a master chronicle of historical drama on film, and it will be awhile before anyone can harness the electric energy that both Soderbergh and Del Toro bring to one of the best biopics in the history of cinema.

Snapshots: Che’s Benicio Del Toro and director Steven Soderbergh

October 8, 2008

New York Film Festival Snapshots sponsored by:

Che’s Benicio Del Toro and director Steven Soderbergh

Photo: Godlis

Young Friends of Film presents: an evening with Benicio Del Toro

October 7, 2008

Benicio Del Toro, Kent Jones of the Film Society

Affable, charming and down-to-earth, Benicio Del Toro took part in a conversation with the Film Society’s Kent Jones last night at the Hudson Hotel. On his latest collaboration with director Steven Soderbergh, Che, Del Toro said: “Steven is special for me–he’s kind of like the Evil Knievel of directors and I admire him for that.”

Benicio chats with YFF members

Afterward, Del Toro mixed it up with fans at a party sponsored by the Young Friends of Film at a penthouse terrace at the Hudson Hotel.

What’s Young Friends of Film?

Well, we’re glad you asked. It’s just about the best-kept secret in the film world. For just $250 a year, you’re on the A-List for parties and events designed especially for younger film enthusiasts at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Case in point: this spirited conversation and party with celebrated actor Benicio Del Toro. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Let your Netflix queue languish while you sit in on engaging conversation with top actors about their craft, meet influential directors, and hob-nob with other discriminating film lovers all year long. All that, plus a subscription to Film Comment magazine, lots of ticket discounts and priority ticketing for the New York Film Festival. What are you waiting for? Join now and don’t miss another incredible event like this one.

See more photos at our Flickr pool.

Just announced! Benicio Del Toro discussion and party!

September 26, 2008

Young Friends of Film is pleased to announce a special party and discussion with Benicio Del Toro in association with the New York Film Festival, and the New York premiere of his film, Che.

Join Kent Jones, NY Film Festival selection committee member, at the Hudson Hotel for an in-depth discussion of his distinctive career of the celebrated actor, followed by a party on Monday, October 6th at 7pm. $50 Talk and Party/$40 Party only. Tickets to the event are extremely limited. Purchase them here.

What is Young Friends of Film?

Young Friends of Film (YFF) is a membership program that brings together film enthusiasts aged 21–40 for special screenings that include appearances by directors, stars and other creative talent behind important films that appeared in the New York Film Festival and New Directors/New Films.

Your membership in YFF not only entitles you to attendance to six screening and parties throughout the year, but also a range of other benefits. Get free tickets to selected Walter Reade theater screenings, a subscription to Film Comment magazine, discounts to the annual New Directors/New Films event (in conjunction with the Museum of Modern Art) and more!

Full details on Young Friends of Film.