\(And yes, there’s a “Bill Hicks is God” I never could tell how earnest Hicks was with the whole mushroom mysticism/squeegee-your-third-eye schtick. He did have some good drug bits, though: my house, then my wife, then my car, then my kids. Don’t do drugs. definitely not doing ’em with you! Funny, yes, but in other words: screw that guy. The flip side of Hicks’ disdain was his belief, apparently sincere if perhaps kind of facile, that humans might eventually evolve beyond their present pitchforkjabbing incarnations into fully sentient beings, discarding fear and hate in favor of love and understanding. But One-Love prophecy was never quite Hicks’ strong suit, to my mind \(though the psychedelic bent of the fan art on www.billhicks.com tells me anger that drew the laughs. I think it was the hate. The 15 years Hicks didn’t just live through would have been a target-rich environment. There wasn’t much in those years to support the idea that humanity was evolving, or doing anything, really, aside from growing ever more greedily stupid. It’s too bad he wasn’t here to hate them properly. Then again, Bill Hicks might not have come through those years funny at all. It wouldn’t have taken much to sidetrack him into the 9/11 “truth movement; and it’s not hard to imagine him taking his act from Letterman to the Alex Jones show, or warming up crowds for Ron Paul. I can imagine him, in short, losing his sense of humor about the whole thing and turning into a crank. Bill Hicks was pissed. It was all so messed up. He couldn’t see why everybody couldn’t see it. It was almost funny. The view may be different from the vantage of 2009, but it can be hard to see still. REVIEW BY DAVID THEIS Che Directed by Steven Soderbergh If you’re one of those people who grumbles that nobody in Hollywood takes chances anymore, take a moment to consider the cases of director Steven Soderbergh and actor Benicio del Toro. Che, their bifurcated film about the beginning and the end of Ernesto Guevara’s career as a revolutionary warrior, seems to share its subject’s disdain for filthy lucre. Where the real Guevara tried to halt the use of money itself in Cuba, this film’s creative principals seem largely indifferent to making any. Soderbergh and del Toro \(who played have produced a four-hour film, complete with intermission \(apparently it will later be released as two stand-alone standard biopic tropes. It does have a fair share of combat and explosions, especially in Part One, but it’s notably devoid of either sex or uplift. And for a film about garrulous revolutionaries, it doesn’t have much dialogue, either. Most surprisingly, the film resolutely avoids intimations of Guevara’s inner life. Did he ever doubt the righteousness of his cause? Did he wonder if it was worth the price he would personally have to pay? Did he have second thoughts about the executions he ordered? In other words, was Guevara possessed of a psychology? Not according to this film. This may read like a negative criticism, but in fact the film is rather absorbing, as long as you take it on its own narrow terms. The filmmakers don’t seem to want to teach us much about Guevara’s life \(though I did learn quite a bit about del Toro’s performance and Soderbergh’s craftsmanship behind the camera, Che mostly holds your attention for four-plus hours, even if you often wish it would dig deeper. Some critics have complained that both parts of the movie tell the same storyof Guevara leading revolutions against corrupt governmentsthe only difference being that the first half has a happy ending while the second half doesn’t \(from the title character’s point this, but it doesn’t take into consideration that the two halves of the story are told in different ways. Part One jumps between three timelines, while Part Two unfolds chronologically. The more easily distracted among us might say that Part Two covers six months of failed insurgency in something uncomfortably close to real time. Part One opens on a dinner party in Mexico City, circa 1957. A group of Cuban refugees has been joined by an Argentine doctor, Ernest Guevara, to talk revolution. Other than identifying Guevara’s country of origin, the film gives no biographical detail: nothing about his celebrated motorcycle trip through South America, nothing about his radicalizing experience as a doctor in Jacobo Arbenz Guzman’s doomed Guatemala, where the CIA conspired with local right-wingers to overthrow Guzman’s government, plunging the country into decades of civil war. The meal begins late because Fidel Castro is late arriving, again. Aside from the constant smoking of cigars, this reference to Castro’s self-privileged sense of time is as close as the film comes to delivering personal, idiosyncratic details about its characters. After the young clean-shaven and unimpressive, the talk turns to the overthrow of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. If your only image of Castro is that of a leather-lunged orator, you may be surprised at how quietly the conversation is conducted, how softspoken and thin-voiced is Bichir’s read. Surely that’s wrong, I thought, until I The Man Without a Middle 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 6, 2009
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