Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: "The Motorcycle Diaries" Reveals a Land and its People (Happy B'Day, Gael Garcia Bernal)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 27 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Diarios de motocicleta (2004)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA, Brazil and others; Language: Spanish and others
The Motorcycle Diaries (USA)
Running time: 128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPAA – R for language
DIRECTOR: Walter Salles
WRITER: Jose Rivera (from the book Notas de viaje by Ernesto Guevara and Con el Che por America Latina by Alberto Granado)
PRODUCERS: Michael Nozik, Edgard Tenenbaum, and Karen Tenkhoff
EDITOR: Daniel Rezende
Academy Award winner


Starring: Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo De la Serna, Mercedes Morán, Jean Pierre Noher, and Lucas Oro

Before he was Che Guevara, the legendary Cuban revolutionary who also fought in the Congo and Bolivia, 23-year old Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (Gael García Bernal) and his older friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) traveled across South America on Alberto’s beat up late 30’s model motorcycle, “The Mighty One.” The duo’s adventures are sometimes comic (wooing women and numerous episodes of falling off their bike or pushing it for miles), suspenseful (fighting Ernesto’s asthma), or serious (volunteering to work at a leper colony). As the film progresses, we see the journey, which lasted over a year from 1951-52, have a profound effect on Ernesto as he saw the people of South America as one people rather than as a collection of provincial states. The journey would lead him to become the revolutionary, “Che” Guevara, who would have a huge impact on many nations.

Diarios de motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries) is a subtle travelogue that shows us how our surroundings can shape who we are, as we see Ernesto Guevara’s long journey change him, or at least make him no longer be the person he was when he left home. Gael García Bernal and Rodrigo De la Serna give delicate performances that resonate over this stirring, yet quiet film. The actors seem to have a real friendship that carries over to the characters and vice versa. Rodrigo’s Alberto is the jolly free-spirited, womanizing clown who keeps Che from going to deep into himself and disappearing from us. Bernal gives us an Ernesto/Che who shows his intellectual and spiritual awakening in his smooth gaze and facial expressions.

Director Walter Salles and cinematographer Eric Gautier create a layered film by allowing the wonderful and diverse settings and exotic locales to permeate the film story. The Motorcycle Diaries literally reeks of being a foreign movie. Of course, there is the language, but unlike many American films, there is no sense of forcing genre conventions on this tale of how the land transforms the soul of a man. Sometimes, Diaries is too low key, but its power comes from its visuals. Every frame and each scene is like a magical symbol simultaneously telling a story and taking us on a journey that might mean spiritual transformation. It’s a film for those who are interested in seeing a movie that reveals the heart and spirit of the land and its people.

7 of 10

2005 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song” (Jorge Drexler for the song "Al Otro Lado Del Río"); 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Jose Rivera)

2005 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Gustavo Santaolalla) and “Best Film not in the English Language” (Michael Nozik, Edgard Tenenbaum, Karen Tenkhoff, and Walter Salles); 5 nominations: “Best Cinematography: (Eric Gautier), “Best Film” (Michael Nozik, Edgard Tenenbaum, and Karen Tenkhoff), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Gael García Bernal), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Rodrigo De la Serna), and “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (José Rivera)

2005 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Brazil)


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