Before Night Falls

( 2 )

Overview

For his sophomore feature film effort, visual artist Julian Schnabel chronicles the life of one of Cuba's most charismatic literary voices, the late Reinaldo Arenas. Working with Arenas' friends and family, Schnabel recounts the author's impoverished rural upbringing and the intense love and support he receives from his mother (played by the director's wife, Olatz Lopez Garmendia). As a young man, Arenas (Javier Bardem) is singled out by his teachers and encouraged to further his skills as a writer -- no easy ...
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Overview

For his sophomore feature film effort, visual artist Julian Schnabel chronicles the life of one of Cuba's most charismatic literary voices, the late Reinaldo Arenas. Working with Arenas' friends and family, Schnabel recounts the author's impoverished rural upbringing and the intense love and support he receives from his mother (played by the director's wife, Olatz Lopez Garmendia). As a young man, Arenas (Javier Bardem) is singled out by his teachers and encouraged to further his skills as a writer -- no easy task, considering the Castro regime's censorship of any work considered to be subversive or anti-authoritarian. Still, the author manages to smuggle his work out of the country through friends, who arrange for one of his novels to be published in France. Not only persecuted for his creative beliefs, the openly gay Arenas is jailed on a bogus sex charge; he escapes internment only to be captured and persecuted later for his contraband dispatches. In 1980, Arenas is finally allowed to leave Cuba for the United States, where he achieves freedom of expression but not prosperity. Schnabel's first film was another portrait of an artist, 1996's Basquiat; Bardem made his name in several of director Pedro Almodovar's Spanish-language productions. Before Night Falls premiered at the 2000 Venice Film Festival, where it received the Best Actor and Grand Special Jury prizes, and made its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Bardem would go on to receive a host of accolades, including an eventual Best Actor nomination at the 2001 Academy Awards.
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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.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/2/2001
  • UPC: 794043525032
  • Original Release: 2000
  • Rating:

  • Source: New Line Home Video
  • Format: VHS

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
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
Xavier Perez-Grobet Cinematographer
Guillermo Rosas Cinematographer
Sebastian Gaetano Silva Asst. Director
Christian Wangler Sound/Sound Designer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 2 )
Rating Distribution

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(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    One of the best films, not just gay films

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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