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Before Night Falls

Before Night Falls

4.0 2
Director: Julian Schnabel

Cast: Javier Bardem, Olivier Martinez, Andrea Di Stefano

Director Julian Schnabel's film adaptation of writer Reinaldo Arenas' memoirs is stunning in this DVD edition. The 1.85:1 widescreen presentation might show some grain, but co-cinematographers Xavier Perez Grobet and Guillermo Rosas' photography is full of lush colors and warm flesh tones. The Dolby Digital Sound is also impressive, with particular kudos going to the


Director Julian Schnabel's film adaptation of writer Reinaldo Arenas' memoirs is stunning in this DVD edition. The 1.85:1 widescreen presentation might show some grain, but co-cinematographers Xavier Perez Grobet and Guillermo Rosas' photography is full of lush colors and warm flesh tones. The Dolby Digital Sound is also impressive, with particular kudos going to the translation of composer Carter Burwell's haunting score. The supplemental material adds great depth to the movie, from the stylish black-and-white menus to the short documentary features. The three documentaries included are a seven-minute interview with the late Arenas, a joyous behind-the-scenes featurette by the director's daughter (Lola Schnabel), and an interesting 15-minute tour by the director of his massive painting studio. The film-long commentary track, edited from sessions with Julian Schnabel, star Javier Bardem, screenwriter Lazaro Gomez Carriles, Burwell, and Grobet, might be slow moving, but it reveals great insight into the life of Arenas and the production of the movie. Filmographies for the principal actors and crew and instant access to the DVD's 27 chapters round out the disc.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Kryssa Schemmerling
Overripe and intensely lyrical, Julian Schnabel's second film is a fever dream of a biopic. Based on the memoir of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls chronicles the author's poverty-stricken childhood in rural Cuba, his artistic and sexual awakening in a Havana during the early, heady days of Castro's revolution, and his eventual persecution by the Communist government, both for his writing and his homosexuality. The story, as rendered by Schnabel, is a gorgeous, pulsating swirl of images -- as dense and visceral as the director's infamous Neo-Expressionist paintings, Before Nightfall soars where the director's first feature, Basquiat, fell flat. Holding it all together is the wonderful Spanish actor Javier Bardem (High Heels), whose affecting, Oscar-nominated performance as Arenas supplies the film with an unshakable center of emotional gravity. Schnabel -- whose film is a vast improvement on his previous portrait of an artist, Basquiat -- takes liberties with his source material; in particular, he downplays the obsessive promiscuity that Arenas describes in his autobiography. This decision, along with some lapses in narrative clarity, makes the film less coherent than it might have been. Yet, it doesn't really matter. Before Night Falls is so visually seductive that it does justice to its subject in a way that few artist biopics do. The DVD edition includes an interview with the real Reinaldo Arenas.
All Movie Guide - Michael Hastings
Julian Schnabel's feverish portrait of Revolutionary Cuba through the eyes of one of its most vocal expatriates, Before Night Falls is everything the director's first artist biopic (1996's Basquiat) wasn't. Where that film sacrificed character and nuance for elaborate shots and showy performances, Night winds its naturalistic imagery tightly to a heartfelt core: the wide-eyed, expressive lead performance of Javier Bardem as Reinaldo Arenas. Never resorting to martyred-genius posturing, Bardem gives Arenas a brash, scruffy physicality, suggesting that the writer was affected as much by the hedonism of his youth as he was by the injustices of his adult life under the Castro regime. Characters appear and disappear from the story with little warning (Schnabel's decision to cast Johnny Depp in two cameo roles proves distracting), and their motivations can be elusive at times. Instead of detracting from the experience, however, these plot hiccups reinforce the notion that Arenas' life was a collection of juxtapositions both absurd and rational, drab and passionate. When Arenas succumbs to AIDS in the flat, colorless sequence that ends the film, it's neither an indictment of American culture nor a weepy, disease-movie crescendo of emotion. Rather, viewers are left with the feeling that Schnabel has encompassed the full scope of an extraordinary existence, and done justice to a person who would've preferred not to be sentimentalized by death.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
New Line Home Video
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital, stereo]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Widescreen version; 5.1 Surround Sound; 2.0 stereo Surround Sound; 5.1 Spanish audio track; English, Spanish, and French subtitles and English closed captions; Commentary with director Julian Schnabel, actor Javier Bardem, screenwriter Lázaro Gómez-Carriles, composer Carter Burwell, and co-director of photography Xavier Pérez Grobert; Documentary shorts: excerpts from "Improper Conduct," 1983 interview with Reinaldo Arenas, behind-the-scenes/home movie by Lola Schnabel, "Little Notes on Painting" artwork by Julian Schnabel; Cast and crew filmographies; Original theatrical trailer; DVD-ROM content; Link to original website

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Javier Bardem Reinaldo Arenas
Olivier Martinez Lazaro Gomez Carriles
Andrea Di Stefano Pepe Malas
Johnny Depp Bon Bon,Lieutenant Victor
Sean Penn Cuco Sanchez
Michael Wincott Herberto Zorilla Ochoa
Najwa Nimri Fina Correa
Hector Babenco Virgilio Pinera
Vito Maria Schnabel Teenage Reinaldo
Olatz Lopez Garmendia Reinaldo's Mother
Jerzy Skolimowski Professor
Pedro Armendariz Reinaldo's Grandfather

Technical Credits
Julian Schnabel Director,Executive Producer,Screenwriter
Michael Berenbaum Editor
Carter Burwell Score Composer
Lazaro Gomez Carriles Screenwriter
Matthias Ehrenberg Associate Producer
Maria Estela Fernandez Costumes/Costume Designer
Xavier Pérez Grobet Cinematographer
Jon Kilik Producer
Antonio Muno-Hierro Art Director
Cunningham O'Keefe Screenwriter
Salvador Parra Production Designer
Guillermo Rosas Cinematographer
Sebastian Gaetano Silva Asst. Director
Christian Wangler Sound/Sound Designer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
0. Scene Selections
1. Childhood [7:24]
2. Holguin, 1958 [5:28]
3. "The Parade Begins" [2:09]
4. Havana, 1964 [2:28]
5. Pepe [4:12]
6. A New Start [6:15]
7. Beauty is the Enemy [5:45]
8. Revolutionaries [4:18]
9. Four Types [3:44]
10. Crackdown [4:00]
11. Article 243 [3:12]
12. Outside Help [4:35]
13. Accusations [2:38]
14. Escape [6:21]
15. In Hiding [5:21]
16. Prison [4:20]
17. Bon Bon [2:57]
18. Punishment [3:12]
19. Lieutenant Victor [:11]
20. Free Again [4:54]
21. Being A Writer [5:34]
22. Pepe's Escape [4:17]
23. Exit Permit [3:46]
24. Stateless [5:34]
25. Strain [3:37]
26. A Promise [5:39]
27. End Credits [2:41]


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4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really love this movie. I watch it at least once a month, not only for the beautiful acting of the main character (Renaldo) but the poetry that shines through words, music, interactions, and scenery shots of Cuba. The passion for art was the overall theme of the movie and the few gay scenes accurately portrays 'gay' is just an orientation not your contribution to the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago