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Che Mixed, Changeling Hot At Cannes

By Garth Franklin Thursday May 22nd 2008 09:10AM
Che Mixed, Changeling Hot At Cannes

Aside from the "Indiana Jones" premiere (shout out to Dave & Clare, you lucky sons of *$@%!...), the film screening that really had everyone curious at this year's Cannes Film Festival was "Che" - Steven Soderbergh's presentation of his $61 million two-part Che Guevera biopic. Quite a few stayed on at the fest yesterday specifically to check out the first screening.

The result has been a surprisingly split reaction with some veteran and well-respected critics on opposite sides of the fence about Soderbergh's unconventional opus on the Cuban revolutionary. Some utterly adore it and are declaring it a Palme d'Or winner already, others saying it's a mess not seen at Cannes since Richard Kelly's disastrous "Southland Tales" screening. Whatever the case, it's certainly the most talked about film of the festival so far, by far. Amongst the reactions:

"A piece of full-on, you-are-there realism about the making of the Cuban revolution that I found utterly believable. Not just "take it to the bank" gripping, but levitational -- for someone like myself it's a kind of perfect dream movie..." - Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere "What a rare pleasure it is to have a film (or films) that, in our box-office obsessed, event-movie, Oscar-craving age, is actually worth talking about on so many levels..." - James Rocchi, Cinematical "Perhaps it will even come to be seen as this director's flawed masterpiece: enthralling but structurally fractured - the second half is much clearer and more sure-footed than the first - and at times frustratingly reticent, unwilling to attempt any insight into Che's interior world..." - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian "An incredibly ambitious, highly detailed mess of a film or two that might be saved if it's re-thought. We haven't seen so much genius and tedium in one place since "Heaven's Gate"..." - Roger Friedman, FOX News "Benefits greatly from certain Soderberghian qualities that don't always serve his other films well, e.g., detachment, formalism, and intellectual curiosity..." - Glenn Kenny, Indiewire

"[An] art film along the lines of something Terrence Malick normally makes, Soderbergh's epic is deliberate and low key. Del Toro completely inhabits the role as you might expect. He was born to play Che..." - Pete Hammond, Los Angeles Times "A folly.' 'A mess.' 'Great.' These words came from some of the critics coming out of Steven Soderbergh's four-hour 18 minute Spanish-language Che Wednesday night. At the end there was slight applause; no boos. My own description: noble failure..." - Anne Thompson, Variety "It's a tough movie, then, sometimes repetitive to the point of near-abstraction, sometimes a little obscure in the precise details of the narrative, and never really offering any great insights into the personality of Guevara himself..." - Geoff Andrew, Timeout "Soderbergh's excessive focus on everyday guerrilla life sometimes misses the big picture...Unless some trimming is done, the rebellion of a lone critic may turn into a public uprising..." - Farah Nayeri, Bloomberg "Neither half feels remotely like a satisfying stand-alone film, while the whole offers far too many aggravations for its paltry rewards. Scattered partisans are likely to step forward, but the pic in its current form is a commercial impossibility, except on television or DVD..." - Todd McCarthy, Variety
At two 129 minute features, there seems to be a question now as to whether Soderbergh will keep his two-film structure, or edit them together into one longer feature. No distributor has yet snapped up the project, nor do any seem to be in a hurry to do so due to the steep acquisition price and the inevitable difficulties of marketing a two-part, four-hour Spanish language featrue. One final interesting fact - Matt Damon pops up in a cameo in the Bolivian scenes.

More consistently positive reaction surrounds Clint Eastwood's child kidnap drama "Changeling" with Angelina Jolie. A large collection of reviews for it are up at Awards Daily but the general buzz is excellent with the film likely to garner awards praise come year's end.

The title at the moment is causing the most confusion with some calling it "Changeling" and others "The Exchange". According to Anne Thompson, the reason is that the film's tile 'Changeling; was translated into French as L'Echange. Producer Brian Grazer said at the post-screening press conference that he thinks the title will stay with "Changeling".

Also whilst not being critically heralded, there's still quite a bit of positive reaction towards Woody Allen's sexual drama "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and general thought that it could be one of the director's bigger commercial successes.

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