In the Dark

Nostalgia’s Rearview Mirror

The Motorcycle Diaries
Produced by South Fork Pictures
Directed by Walter Salles
Screenplay based on The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara and Traveling with Che Guevara by Alberto Granado
Distributed by Focus Features

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Produced by Brooklyn Films
Written and directed by Kerry Conran
Distributed by Paramount Pictures

It was Marshall McLuhan’s opinion that we are all hopelessly nostalgic.  We drive into the future, he claimed, with our eyes glued to life’s rearview mirror.  Who would disagree?  Two recent films show us just where such backward gazing can lead.  The first takes us disinguenuously astray; the second sends us magically over the rainbow.

Brazilian director Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries demonstrates that those who indulge a nostalgia for charismatic leaders of the past are often taken in by cheap icons, especially if their sense of history is thin.  Salles counts on such thinness to foist on the unsuspecting an idealized story of the seemingly innocent young man who would become the vicious revolutionary Che Guevara.

Since his 1967 assassination in Bolivia, Guevara has been packaged by the Marxist faithful as a communist saint.  But, as recovering Marxist Christopher Hitchens (if you...

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