Monday 11 April 2005

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) - ickleReview (DVD)

Two young men from Buenos Aires, a 23-year-old medical student and a 29-year-old bio-chemist, decide to travel through South America on a clapped out motorcycle, which they call "The Mighty One". They move through the plains and mountains of Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia, taking in a leprosy clinic on the Amazon. On the way, they witness Poverty and Injustice and face Challenges, such as, "Do I spend this US$15 on a swimsuit as my girlfriend asked me to, or do I use it to fix this shitty bike?" It rather spoils it, I think, if you know who one of these young men turns out to be, so I won't tell you. You're more than likely to find out anyway, if you don't know already. The problem is that if you do know who he is, the things they see on their journey seem a bit corny, a bit too much like the highlights of their travelogues: these are Experiences, stepping-stones that lead towards who these men will become.

The best parts of this admittedly enjoyable movie are the banter and humour between "Fuser" and Granado, and the South American landscapes, which are often shot to look like a thing of beauty. In particular, the ferry across the mountain lake in Chile, and the lost city of Manchu Pichu in Peru. Fuser's character is surprisingly lacking in charisma, yet his psychological change is subtle, almost imperceptible. Even though there's a regular update in the bottom-right corner of the frame of how far they have travelled, one does not get the same sense of the epic distance of their journey as one does, for example, in Touching the Void - the 10,000-20,000km is not made out to be such a feat; and it's almost as if, like gap year students, they left their families knowing that when they came back, Things Would Never Be The Same Again.

Nugget: it's in Spanish with subtitles and it's interesting to see the effect of Spanish colonialization, as so much of this vast continent speaks the same language and in dialects which are mutually comprehensible. In Britain, subtitles were thought to be necessary for the screening of Ken Loach's Sweet Sixteen (set in Greenock on the west coast of Scotland) when the BBC screened it in English regions.

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