Che Part One is a film without a proper beginning or all that satisfactory end. I knew the second part of that sentence before I went in, I know Soderbergh has split his four hour film into two so it is more palatable to audiences. I toyed with going to see it in one piece on New Years Day, but thought I would prefer to see it in parts. So I knew it would not end all neatly wrapped up. I also knew that because it is a biopic based on a short segment of Che Guevara’s life, as such how neat could it be. So I also kind of guessed that it might not have that much of a beginning either (unless you count the Motorcycle Diaries).

But its not all middle either. Because what Che is really about is less Che the man, but Che and the process of revolution and guerilla warfare. So the film leaps from ambush, to battle, to training sequences without much sense of narrative or character development. All of which seems to be the effect Stephen Soderbergh is after, and is interesting to watch because of its rejection of standard narrative structures. It is more like Cinema Novo, or the third cinema than a Hollywood production, trying to give the means of film production to the people the films are about. Which is why it seems at odds with making a biopic, and indeed being produced and directed by an American who admits he had relatively little interest in Guevara. The framing device (black and white interview and UN scenes from the sixties) seems the only direct connection the film has with telling a story about the man. I am not saying the film is not interested in Che, he is in nearly every scene. But it knows it is interested in a cypher, and someone who was like that in real life. It is the story of a man best known for an image, and less so for his ideas even. It even toys with the idea that the promotion of the image over the ideas is partially Che’s own fault, for being so efficiently self effacing (its about an hour and a half in we discover he has a wife and child back in Mexico City).

So not bad for a film without a beginning, barely a middle and no satisfactory cinematic end! I am assuming Debussy and the disco turns up in part two next month.