[Mb-civic] Another G-r-e-a-t Review of "Motorcyle Diaries"

Barbara Siomos barbarasiomos38 at webtv.net
Wed Sep 29 08:00:17 PDT 2004

RE:     Review of Motorcycle Diaries 
With respect to Compuserve where I found this review. 
The Motorcycle Diaries
Reviewed by: Edward Douglas 
Rating: 10 out of 10
Gael García Bernal as Ernesto 'Che' Guevara de la Serna Rodrigo De la
Serna as Alberto Granado 
Mía Maestro as Chichina Ferreyra
Mercedes Morán as Celia de la Serna
Jorge Chiarella as Dr. Bresciani 

In January 1952, two friends left Buenos Aires for a trip across South
America which would take them 8,000 kilometers in four months. The trip
starts out as a fun adventure to see the continent with the help of only
a motorcycle, but what they discover is something that will forever
alter their view of the world. The elder of the two, 29-year-old
biochemist Alberto Granado would go on to become a leader in medicine,
while he younger of the two, Ernesto Guevara, would later become a South
American figurehead for revolution.
Once in a very long time, a movie comes along that alters your
perception or opinion on a subject matter by showing you something you
never thought possible. Few may go into The Motorcycle Diaries knowing
much about South America or the legacy of Che Guevara, but most should
come away from it rather enlightened about a continent that has been
mainly steeped in mystery to Northerners. Adapted from the respective
journals of the two men-Guevara's The Motorcycle Diaries and Granado's
Traveling with Che Guevara-this beautifully realized film turns what
might have been a simple road movie into a stunning and thought
provoking experience.
The road trip starts off with the two guys preparing for the trip with
very little fanfare and no nothing to up the characters or their
backgrounds, most of which we learn over the course of the journey.
Since the two guys are so different, it's surprising that they decided
to make the trip together. Alberto is so much older and more experienced
than Ernesto, and while they're both clearly idealists when they start
the trip, Ernesto is innocent and honest to a fault while Alberto is a
bit more of a player, especially towards women. Using a combination of
bargaining and bullsh*t, they find ways to survive on the road with no
money. The big sticking point between the friends is fifteen American
dollars given to Ernest by his girlfriend to buy her a bathing suit if
they make it to America, which Ernesto refuses to spend on important
things like food or shelter or medicine.
At first, the trip is a bit of a lark to see the countryside, but as
they progress deeper into the continent, they discover another side of
the world that they didn't know existed, where the indigent natives of
the continent suffer in poverty, working dangerous and menial jobs for
little pay. To say that discovering the true poverty of the country is a
life changing experience would be an understatement, but they certainly
get more than they bargained for. For the first time in their lives,
they experience the indigents of the country that they never had seen in
the European influenced Buenos Aires. When they finally reach the San
Pablo leper colony, they're shocked by the conditions, and it brings the
two men together to try to make a difference.
The quality of the filmmaking is the least one might expect from a
master filmmaker like Brazil's Walter Salles, who takes a daring step
forward from his earlier films, Central Station and Behind the Sun. For
The Motorcycle Diaries, Salles met a number of challenges, the greatest
one being the decision to tell a story about the formative years in the
life of a South American icon. Shooting the film outside of his native
country in a language not his own, Salles decided to use many
inexperienced locals for the film, and with a melting pot of a crew with
different South American backgrounds, Salles effectively erases the
invisible boundaries that separate the continent's individual countries
as easily as the two friends travel across them. 

Although this is a terrific story in itself, it wouldn't have been
nearly as effective if not for the amazing performances by two young
actors who have incredible chemistry on screen. Gael Garcia Bernal
continues his run as one of Mexico's best actors, creating a memorable
performance as the young Guevara. He brings suitable innocence and
naivety to Ernesto as he heads out on the road, as well as an empathy to
the indigent people of the country that would certainly help him as a
leader later in life, as well as showing a terrific bedside manner as a
doctor to the afflicted of the leper colony. Guevara also struggled with
asthma early in life, something that may not have been known, but Bernal
effectively shows another side to the legendary figure as well as a
believable evolution over the course of the film.
Lesser-known Argentine actor Rodrigo De La Serna-no, the last name isn't
a coincidence; he is a second cousin to the real Ernesto-gives an
equally impressive portrayal of Granado. He turns what would be a fairly
dimensionless character into the perfect counterpart to Bernal's
The amazing script by Jose Rivera is what drives the film and makes both
these characters work with dialogue that quickly makes you forget that
you're reading subtitles. The patter between the two men is consistently
great, but some of the best writing comes from Guevara himself as
beautiful passages from letters to his mother are used as narrative to
the film. 

The Motorcycle Diaries is also special because it shows off the
beautiful South American landscape, including many places that few will
have had a chance to see in the past. This greatly adds to the tale,
although it will also add to the comparisons to Bernal's breakout hit Y
Tu Mama Tambien. While that coming of age story was also groundbreaking,
there's a lot more depth to The Motorcycle Diaries on a social and
political level.
The Bottom Line:
Walter Salles has done it again. Working with two fine actors and a rich
and unmatchable South American setting, Salles has created a wonderful,
charming and deeply moving rites of passage film that runs the gamut of
themes from friendship and tolerance to the division between the rich
and the poor. One of the best films of the year so far.

More information about the Mb-civic mailing list