I did a paper on Argentina in my first year in university. Beef is one of that country’s largest exports. There will be a lot of cows in this movie.
So Che Guevarra, known as Ernesto ‘Fuser’ Guevarra (Gael Garcia Bernal) was my age in 1951 and is best friends with a guy named Alberto (Rodrigo De la Serna), aged thirty, both of whom are passionate young adults who are kind of lost just like I am? Sweet and comforting, actually.
The Motorcycle Diaries follows the two men as they try to make it from Argentina to Venezuela by a motorcycle they call The Mighty One or The Powerful, depending on the translation, hoping to make it there for Alberto’s birthday. The film oscillates between the innate greatness and the precarious uncertainly of young lives of these two future leaders.
Although they are the main characters of the film, they’re also not necessarily the heroes since as young men, their strengths won’t be as well moulded. The movie’s technically about Ernesto, sometimes he steps aside for Alberto, who’s more charismatic to women and is a better dancer than he is. Both the young men also take the same humble attitude and watch great actions from the people they meet along their journey. Alberto, on his birthday and far from Venezuela, stumbles and says that traveling up a hill isn’t humanly possible, then we see a Native walk uphill. The two city boys learn from the people they meet and gather the fortitude to do impossible things themselves, like tell a doctor he can’t write or refuse to wear gloves while shaking hands with lepers or swim across a dangerous river at nighttime.
The trip is an educational experience in all the ways they have intended or otherwise, finding out for instance about specific restrictions. The two are kicked off a mining site while trying to watch out for a Communist couple, or the Natives are kicked off their land by corporations, both examples fueling outrage within Ernest and Alberto’s young minds.
Comparisons are inevitably drawn between this film and Bernal’s other road trip movie, Y Tu Mama Tambien. Ernesto fools around with his girlfriend in a car, although the scene’s tamer here. He and Alberto are also going to fight along the way. However, unlike the comfortable distance Julio and Tenoch has inside a car, ‘The Powerful’ becomes ‘The Deceased,’ the young men have to go on foot as they stubbornly continue their journey. Walking, as these guys say, makes them actually meet and talk to people along the way. They have informative conversations with drifters, or lepers who aren’t being treated well by the nuns in the settlement. The desolate injustices hinted at in Y Tu Mama Tambien are more pronounced in this film but the impact somehow seems lessened.
I’m taking everyone I know to see this movie.
The movie, portraying Argentine detective Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) trying to write a novel about a rape-murder case he’s had a twenty-five year obsession with, could have been a “baffling masterpiece” if I left it alone. But like every great film, I can’t, and it becomes more cohesive the more I think of it.
The movie, comfortably jumping from 1974 to 2000, has everything. Class conscious banter. The Hitchcockian theme wherein a man acting out on his impulses reminds another of his repressed desires and romances. A portrayal of human stupidity by Esposito and his partner Sandoval, whom, despite its intentions, prove that they’re neither cunning nor untouchable as they think. All of that in a slow marinade that is neither sleepy nor frustrating.
Then it has a climax like the seamless, much talked about chase scene in a full capacity soccer stadium.
The second half is, forgive me, a series of what-the-fucks. It’s one of those movies that can end in so many places, with slow dramatic volleys from one possible scenario to its exact opposite. One of those possible endings transports us to the year 2000, when both Esposito and his love interest, Irene Menendez Hastings, are older. She examines the novel and becomes dissatisfied where and how the rough draft ends, her way of encouraging him to find real answers and truths that both the characters and the audience deserve. This second half isn’t jolting but is nonetheless disturbing. Saying ‘that was the most fucking up thing I’ve ever seen’ was a gauge learned to judge great movies in high school viewership, and it’s still just as effective. The real ending that the characters and audience do deserve took a lot of buildup, and it’s believable and nonetheless human made by a director who can make great films.
The movie’s about how people treat each other, how people punish each other, a desire for vindication. It’s about a new cinematic language to articulate an idealism that hasn’t vanished in the personal nor national level, although it’s easy for that ideal to slip away.
Now that’s done, I’ll reintroduce Nathaniel R’s discovery of Natalie Portman’s three block rule, a rule that the Cumberland audience is notorious for breaking. And it’s funnier when middle-aged bourgeois feys break this rule.
“I thought the movie was so horrible.”
“Have you read the New Yorker review? I think you’re alone in this.”
“Just everything was set up. The female judge just happens to have her shirt a bit open when the suspect was there. And the elevator…”
“That’s like every other movie. It wasn’t as bad as the movie yesterday.” (Please don’t tell me these idiots didn’t see J.Lo)
“And the judge closing the case just like that.”
“Well, you don’t know what the Argentinian (ARGENTINE!) justice system was like. And it was the 70’s. It was a dictatorship.”
And so forth. I’m pretty sure I’m a loser for forestalking them (walking in front of the person you’re actually following). I just thought the dialogue was gold.