Do you wonder why certain contemporary icons turned out the way they did? Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Che Guevara, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa or any of the almost mythic figures we hear so much about?  I’m trying to be a bit clever with this question, slipping in the name of Che Guevara like that, but in the late sixties and seventies—and even today—his image was (and still is) plastered in more dorm rooms and coffee houses and on countless T-shirts, more than James Dean and Marilyn Monroe or any other movie or rock star. When he was killed in 1967—many think the CIA set him up—much of the world was outraged and he quickly became one of the most celebrated martyrs of the twentieth century.

What’s this got to do with the movie I’m reviewing, “The Motorcycle Diaries.” Well, it’s about Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, an Argentinean who became Che Guevara, Che! With an exclamation point was enough.  Ernesto is 23 years old.  He and his friend Alberto Granado, a 29 year old biochemist, decide to make a motorcycle trip up the length of South America from Argentina Chili just for the fun of it, to have a good time, encounter women, that sort of thing. Ernesto needs a break from his medical studies Alberto who’s a pharmacist is plain adventurous. The ensuing journey transforms Ernesto, and little by little, with subtlety and insight we being to get an inkling of Che.  Nothing overt, but we can feel a metamorphosis under way.  The central set piece is their stay in a leper colony, and it is this experience more than any other that puts Ernesto on his life’s journey.

And in the hands of director Walter Salles this journey takes on epic proportions, not because anything earth shaking or stupendous happens, but because this 23 year old sees beyond the gorgeous scenery—and it is breathtaking—where poverty is the norm.  Where indigenous people have been forced from the land they’ve lived on for centuries.  (The black and white photography of these people staring at the camera is incredibly moving.)

This is not a pompous or heavy movie.  On the contrary it’s often funny and gripping and a joy to experience.

Ernesto Guevara de la Serna is played by Gael García Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien), his lady-killer friend Alberto Granado played by Rodrigo de la Serna. And they are both wonderful, especially Bernal whose face reflects all that is deep inside him, so that we become convinced that this could indeed have been the awakening of Che Guevara.

At the end of the movie we learn how Che Guevara was ambushed and killed in 1967.A few years before he invited his old friend Alberto Granado to come to Cuba .He did and founded a famous hospital that still exists today.  And the old Alberto is seen in the last frame of the movie, a most moving image.

In Spanish with English subtitles. Rated R   for strong language and sexual references.

For me Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wallace and Gromit, and Pinocchio are real, certainly as real, true to life if you will, because they all embody human characteristics.  That may seem strange when we’re talking about a rabbit, a duck and a wooden boy, but it’s not any stranger than when we read a good novel or see a good movie.  We know it’s a story and not something that’s actually happening as we read or see it.  Yet if it’s a good story we get caught up in it.  If it’s not, for whatever reason, we don’t.

It’s the story of a super hero family, father, mother, daughter and son, and baby, each with a special power that is different from the others.  The trouble is that the time for super-heroes has past.  Now they’re being sued for hurting someone’s back while saving his life, or wrecking someone’s car while saving the city.  Yup, their day has past.  So they are relocated and given new identities, like mobsters who’ve ratted on their bosses, and they try to lead normal lives.  This part of the movie is very funny.  Of course this situation can’t last because the world still has lots of evil people in it and it needs super-heroes.  So they come out of retirement and save us.  

What’s so beautiful about all this is that this family shares all the characteristics of regular families—they have the same parent-kid problems, the same marital difficulties, the same faults and strengths of ordinary people.  Except for the fact that each one of them has that extra special power:  Maybe it’s great strength, or elasticity, or speed or being able to disappear.  The lesson I came away with—and it’s not at all preachy—is that you don’t have to be a super-hero because each of us has an individual gift and if we can learn to work with one another we too can save the world for the powers of evil.

This is a delightful, beautiful, important movie.  

Rated PG for action violence.

DE-LOVELY Irwin Winkler
Cole Porter wrote some of the best songs we’ll ever hear.  Here are some titles:  “Let’s Do It” (Let’s Fall in Love), “Easy to Love,” “True Love,” “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” “I Love You,” “Anything Goes,” “Love For Sale.”  I’ve heard these songs all my life, and I relished their sophistication and wit, their sheer beauty.  But after seeing “De-Lovely” I’ll never quite listen to them in quite the same way as before.  This is especially true of “What Is This Thing Called Love?”  It was a question Cole Porter struggled with all his life, and he never really found a satisfactory answer.  

That’s not to imply that Irwin Winkler’s “De-Lovely” shows a man beset by doubts about his homosexuality while living an outwardly happily married life.  It’s not that simple. Kevin Kline’s Cole Porter accepts his sexual orientation and his love for his wife (played nicely by Ashley Judd); and here’s the troubling part—he knows he’s causing her great anguish yet he is incapable of not stopping his philandering. 

Director Winkler has made the inspired move to use contemporary singers like Alanis Morissette, Elvis Costello, and Sheryl Crowe.  It simply proves that Cole Porter is alive and well.


There have been several very good movies about memory loss.  A few weeks ago when we talked about “Fifty First Dates” I mentioned “Random Harvest” (1942) and “Groundhog Day” (1993), two of the best that have not lost their impact over the years.  I’d say they’ve gotten better, as any good movie does.  By the way “Fifty First Dates” is still playing at West Acres.  

The first thing you need to know about “Eternal Sunshine” is that it’s the creation of  Charlie Kaufmann who gave us “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation,”--that should tell you something about what you’re in for here.  

The story concerns a man and a woman (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) who meet, have a relationship that doesn’t go too well, she finds a doctor who has a technology that can selectively erase part of your memory—you see, she wants to forget this loser guy.  The guy, Joel, finds out about this and of course he does the same thing—wipes Clementine from his memory.  

Except he has second thoughts, and so in the middle of his “operation” he wants out—he realizes he doesn’t want to be without the wacky Clem.  

The second half of this movie is inside Carrey’s head.  We see Joel and Clem together-- not necessarily chronologically—as the erasing process is taking place.  It’s a fascinating bit of filmmaking that will probably leave you a bit confused at times.  You’re asking:  “Is this real?” “Did this really take place?”  The special effects are in this case quite special.  

So how do we forget?  Or remember, for that matter?  Does an event or a period in our past just disappear all at once?  Little by little?  Chronologically?  Randomly?  Can a part of our past be tucked somewhere in our brain that nobody, not even us, can get at?   Can we, while remembering, change events, change our memory in effect?  These are the issues at the heart of this movie.  

Carrey and Winslet are excellent.  Their supporting cast very good:  Tom Wilkenson, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst.  

How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd.
-- Alexander Pope, "Eloisa to Abelard"

Rated R (for language, some drug and sexual content).






There is a genre of French films that can best be described as “intimate relationship movies.”  People talk. They react to talk.  Their faces contain the drama.  Some of France ’s greatest directors use this format to tell intimate, erotic, dramatic tales of passion and repression.  I’m thinking of Robert Bresson, Eric Rohmer, and now Patrice Leconte, the director of one of my favorite films of last year “Man on a Train” and now “Intitimate Strangers,” a richly textured and nuanced film that is part love story, part suspense psychological thriller.   

The literal translation of the French title “Confidences trop intimes” would be “Too Intimate Confidences” which just wouldn’t work.  Leconte takes a seductive woman (the marvelous Sandrine Bonnaire) and puts her on a couch to tell her story to a psychiatrist who’s not really a psychiatrist but a lonely tax accountant (Fabrice Luchini).  She discovers her mistake but continues to see the tax man.  Why?    

That’s the story and it is mesmerizing.   

A quick word about the music.  The original score by Pascal Estève is reminiscent of the work Bernard Hermann did for Alfred Hitchcock, and that is no coincidence.  Bonnaire could well be a Hitchcock woman with her air of mystery and vulnerability.  Several times Estève’s music bridges the scenes, linking them together to make connections we might not ordinarily make.  A strong recommendation from me.  

Rated R for strong sexual talk.


WIMBLEDON Richard Loncraine
The most famous tennis scene in the movies takes place in Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train”—by the way, this is yet another reference in “Sky Captain” when Polly drops her camera and it falls into a sewer grate and she has to reach in a get it as the robots draw near.  Anyway the tennis match in “Strangers” is very exciting, but the problem with it is that Farley Granger can’t swing a racket without looking like a klutz.  This is not the case with “ Wimbledon ” in which the two principals, Paul Bettany and Kristen Dunst both look and play the part of tennis professionals.  And that’s just one of the many things I like about “ Wimbledon .”  

Isn’t it fun to go to a movie where the director—in this case Richard Loncraine—makes all the right decisions:  first get good actors who look the part, hire an editor who knows enough about tennis to keep the action crisp and entertaining, get a photographer who knows London.  And by the way, I haven’t seen London ever look this good in a movie in a long while.   

Another thing I liked was the kissing. There’s one scene that takes place in Brighton, the English seaside resort, where Peter and Lizzie walk onto an old tennis court, the one where Peter’s father taught him to play.  When I was a kid I hated love scene, all that kissing which stops the action dead.  Well, the kiss between Peter and Lizzie is one of the best I’ve seen in a long while, tender with real feeling.  I think it’s at this moment that they both realize they love one another.  That doesn’t mean it will be easy sailing from then on. On the contrary.  But it’s that kiss, that genuine communication that melds them to each other.

Dunst is so much better in this movie than in the Spider-Man flicks, and maybe it’s because she has an inner steeliness which she uses so well here.  Sure she’s pretty but she’s also a tennis pro and when she’s on the court she can be a nasty piece of work.  She does a beautiful job blending the two.  Paul Bettany has been picking good roles.  He was Stephan Maturin in “Master and Commander” and Russell Crowe’s roommate in “A Beautiful Mind.”  His career is taking off.

I’d like to mention the wonderful actress Elinor Bron, who plays Peter’s mother.  You may remember her as Miss Minchin in “A Little Princess.”  She is one of England’s finest character actresses. She can play the grande dame or the nasty stepmother as few others.

Rated PG-13.