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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Steven Soderbergh at Cinema 21

Posted on Sat, Mar 14, 2009 at 5:43 AM

posted by Arts Intern Matthew Vollono

Going into tonight's sold-out screening of Steven Soderbergh's film Che at Cinema 21, I was curious to see how Portlanders would react to a four hour long biopic on one of the most controversial figures of the last sixty years. Would they, like audiences in New York, stand and yell "he's a murderer!" from some darkened seat in the balcony when Soderbergh began to answer questions? Or would they be content to just sit back with their Birkenstocks crossed, in awe of a man so many consider a hero?

Thankfully it was neither. Details on tonight's screening after the jump:

(And if you haven't already, please check out Mercury Film Editor Erick Henricksen's interview with Steven Soderbergh in this week's paper here).

After the applause died down a man seated halfway back asked if the director felt his portrayal of the controversial revolutionary was a positive one. Soderbergh admitted he didn't think the film looked on Che favorably, adding that he's unable to "editorialize" when it comes to his films. "I don't feel I gave it a positive slant," he said, noting that for those who hate Che, no amount of on-screen barbarianism could've made them happy.

Throughout the rest of the talk the audience was eager to get their questions in, often interrupting the director before he'd even finished speaking, making the theater feel more like some kind of heated press conference than an organized Q&A.

There were the usual heap of "technical questions” concerning things like aspect ratio and dropped frames, but for the most part people seemed interested in the details behind the film itself; most notably what attracted Soderbergh to the character of Che in the first place. The director admitted to holding a certain fascination with the story of man whose "compelled over and over again to the jungle," comparing the process of making the film (which took over seven years) to entering a similar kind of jungle, albeit a far less violent one.

Most revealing were the conversations Soderbergh had with the film's star, Bencio Del Toro prior to filming. Del Toro, who is Latin American, was worried his portrayal of Che might come across as insincere, or worse yet, a weak imitation. For a while they debated if the movie was even worth doing until Soderbergh finally decided - in true revolutionary spirit - that the only thing "worse than doing it and fucking it up, was not doing it at all."

Judging from the audience's applause, and the amount of people who were turned away at the box office prior to the screening, tomorrow's shows are bound to sell fast. I'd get there early.

Che screens at Cinema 21 Saturday March 14, at 1:30 & 7:15pm. Both shows have a Q&A with Steven Soderbergh immediately following .

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