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Che: Part Two (Guerilla)

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In contrast to Che: Part One (The Argentine)'s Cuban revolution, Guerilla's story of Che Guevara's disastrous 1966 Bolivian invasion presents a much more troubling though far more prosaic counterargument. If, as The Argentine argued, love is one of the qualities any revolutionary should possess, then Guerilla is a sobering story of mad, self-destructive love on the run.

The differences between the two parts are crucial to the meaning of the complete work. Most of the English spoken in The Argentine is from a translator attempting to articulate Che's message for the rest of the world. But the only English spoken in Guerilla is prompted by U.S. government officials seeking to silence and destroy Che's ragtag regime. The verdure of the Cuban jungle is replaced by the heat and dust of the Bolivian countryside. Selfish rogues step in for principled revolutionaries.

The formal differences are important here as well. Steven Soderbergh the cinematographer mutes his color palette and abandons the Cinemascope ratio for the more traditional 1:85:1 image, but he proves himself a fiendish manipulator of the deep and shallow recessive staging so useful in horror films. Soderbergh's framing here augments an eerie, atonal electronic score to create more deliberate and ominous effects: One indelibly menacing shot shows a hand ready to feed ammunition into a machine gun in the foreground while Che's soldiers wade though a river in the background.

The Argentine's cool surfaces are broken in Guerilla as well. Soderbergh maintains his distance from his subject until the very end, when a wounded Che (Benicio del Toro) writhes around in the dust and the camera moves in closer and closer like some crude wartime paparazzo. More audacious still is the point-of-view shot from Che's perspective as he's executed. But even that's topped by a climactic associative flashback that fuses this rugged, downbeat urchin with its starched, handsome twin.

Brooks Museum of Art, Sunday, March 8th, 5 p.m., $10

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