Sunday, May 01, 2005

Good Flicks: "Millions" and "The Motorcycle Diaries"

A couple of films well worth your time....


Jan took Andrew and I to see a movie called "Millions" this afternoon.


Sometimes you run across something so unusual and funny and creative that it's hard to describe it easily. I'll try my best to give it a fair take.

It's about a 9 year old boy who wants to be a saint. When was the last time you saw anything with that premise? He sees various Christian and Catholic saints in short and hilarious encounters. He's read some books on the lives of the saints and he remembers every detail.

When he meets the saints he introduces himself by quoting their exact lifespans and a brief description of their ministries. At one point in the movie St. Joseph shows up during his elementary school Nativity play. When he sees him his eyes light up and he says to Joseph, "The first century carpenter, exact dates uncertain."

It's about a father and his two sons who've just lost their wife and mother and are trying to make sense of their lives without her. Her deep faith and goodness make a huge if diverse impact on all of them as they pick up the pieces.

It's about the power of faith to overcome the corrupting power of money. Jesus' teaching that no one can serve both God and mammon is writ large on almost every scene.

It's a crime story about a major league train robbery. The ingenious criminals steal a huge amount of English currency which is on its way to be burned just before the (fictional) shift from the pound to the Euro takes effect. They throw large bags full of money off the train in various parts of England where their confederates will pick it up. One of those bags lands close to the house of the would-be saint and his family. Complications ensue.

So much for the plot.

The tone is true to life and funny in the smallest details. The sometimes edgy visual style is a kind of magical realism that fits a 9 year old's point of view.

I can't easily remember a movie that is so thoroughly Christian.

If it's still in theaters where you live go see it. If it isn't, rent it and see it. If you have kids, make sure they see it. By all means, encourage other people to see it.

The Motorcycle Diaries

I saw this one a few months ago on a flight back from Africa.

It's in Spanish with English substitles, so if you don't like foreign films don't bother with it. But if you're open to that kind of experience this is a really good flick.

It's the true story of Ernesto Guevara (better known as "Che Guevara") and Alberto Granado, two good friends and very young medical students who took a road trip together from Argentina to Venezuela along the length of Latin America during the early 1950's.

Che Guevara is a t-shirt icon for the supposedly hip. He's become a kind of abstract mythological figure who stands for anything countercultural or revolutionary even though most people I've talked to seem to know almost nothing about him.

I read Guevera's Motorcyle Diaries a number of years ago, and normally I like the book version of almost anything better than the movie take on the same material. But I enjoyed this film at least as much as I did the original book.

It's beautiful and moving. I thought the movie told two stories.

One of them is about two privelaged young men from Argentina who travel together through Latin America and discover the harsh reality of poverty and exploitation that most people in the developing world deal with every day. In small and understated ways throughout the film, both Guevara and Granado undergo a conversion experience.

The other story is about an old man looking back on his life.

As all of you know, Guevara eventually became a Marxist revolutionary who tried to emancipate the poor by overthrowing some of the obscene rulers and systems so prevalent in his day. He fought alongside Castro during the Cuban revolution, eventually fought in Angola, and was killed at 39 leading an insurrection in Bolivia.

Alberto Granado came to Cuba on Guevara's invitation and has continued to served the Cuban people to this day. Though Castro has become a joke and Cuba has become an economic failure,
the revolution there dramatically improved the lives of the poor, particularly in the area of health care. Granado played a practical and important role in those advances.

At the end of the movie he looks back on his travels with Guevara and what happened to their lives after that trip. He wonders, in the quiet and unassuming manner that is so characteristic of the flick, if he and Guevara made the right life choices in response to their experiences on their youthful road trip. But he doesn't doubt for a minute the truth of those experiences or the coming of age they had together.

I loved that ending because it seemed so universal to me. I guess lots of us, especially as we get into middle age or older, value the deeper truths we've learned while wondering if we made the right choices or committed ourselves to the right efforts in response to those truths.

Anyway, you might enjoy this one. Check it out.


Blogger Jason said...

Saw Millions tonight. Thnx for the recommendation. Love it.

11:47 PM  

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