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Before Night Falls

121 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Before Night Falls (DVD)

Episodic look at the life of Cuban poet and novelist, Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990), from his childhood in Oriente province to his death in New York City. He joins Castro's rebels. By 1964, he is in Havana. He meets the wealthy Pepe, an early lover; a love-hate relationship lasts for years. Openly gay behavior is a way to spite the government. His writing and homosexuality get him into trouble: he spends two years in prison, writing letters for other inmates and smuggling out a novel. He befriends Lázaro Gomes Garriles, with whom he lives stateless and in poverty in Manhattan after leaving Cuba in the Mariel boat-lift. When asked why he writes, he replies cheerfully, "Revenge."

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Special Features

  • Three documentaries shorts including an interview with the real Reinaldo Arenas
  • Commentary by director Julian Schnabel, Javier Bardem other cast and crew

Product Details

  • Actors: Javier Bardem, Sean Penn, Olivier Martinez, Johnny Depp, Jerzy Skolimowski
  • Directors: Julian Schnabel
  • Writers: Julian Schnabel, Reynaldo Arenas, Cuhhingham O'Keefe, Lazaro Gomez Carriles
  • Producers: John Kilik
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: September 6, 2005
  • Run Time: 133 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00003CXRG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,830 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Before Night Falls" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Westley VINE VOICE on March 8, 2004
Format: DVD
"Before Night Falls" recounts the incredible life of Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, played with great sensitivity by Spanish actor Javier Bardem. Born a peasant in the 1930's, Arenas had the great misfortune of being a gay writer in a country that considered art and homosexuality to be counter-revolutionary. "Before Night Falls" is based on his memoir and relates his imprisonment in Cuba and subsequent exodus to the United States. Despite this persecution, Arenas' work flourished and was published widely, albeit mostly outside of Cuba.
Director Julian Schnabel is a well-known "neo-expressionist" painter; accordingly, he is able to bring an artist's understanding and sensibility to the story. His prior film was "Basquiat," about the 1980's graffiti artist. Although Schnabel seems to be limiting himself to portraits of artists, the two films are very disparate. Specifically, "Before Night Falls" is much grander in scope and incorporates more directorial flourishes than does "Basquiat." Despite the epic sweep of the film, Schnabel successfully tells Arenas' very personal and heart-rending story. Another major asset of the film is the cinematography and ambiance; vibrant colors and people populate the film. The viewer is transported to 1960s Cuba; you can feel the humidity and the pulse of the Mambo music.
Javier Bardem gives an astonishing performance, for which he deservedly received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor. For the role, he was required to learn Cuban-Spanish as well as English. The DVD extras include a 7 minute interview with Arenas, and it's apparent that Bardem nails the look and speech of the artist, without reverting to a simple impersonation.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Ellis on October 18, 2001
Format: DVD
Before Night Falls is the second film from painter Julian Schnabel. Much like his first film, Basquiat, Schnabel uses this film to explore the life of another late artist -- the Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas. The film follows Arenas for his birth to Cuban peasants, his concurrent discoveries of both homosexuality and poetry during his youth, and his eventual, Hellish imprisonment under Fidel Castro's communist regime. Arenas was eventually sent to America as a part of the Mariel boatlift which later became infamous for being made up of several psychotics and habitual criminals. That Castro also included a large number of gay Cubans amongst this bunch shows the beyond low regard in which gays were held in what many still foolishly consider to be Castro's "enlightened" government. Settling in New York and living in great poverty (but finally with the freedom to be, regardless of his sexuality, acknowledged as a human being), Arenas eventually developed AIDS and killed himself in the early '90s. It doesn't sound like a happy story yet strangely, one cannot help but be inspired by this film. Certainly, the scenes in Cuba are the strongest. Though this is not an explicitly political film and Schnabel is hardly a right-winger, he is still unflinching in portraying how Castro's regime established its power by punishing anyone who dared to display any form of individuality and how homosexuals -- who were hardly on society's A list before Castro came to power -- became a convenient scapegoat. Through prodigous excerpts from Arenas's writings, Schnabel also shows how, under a system where freedom is forbidden, both art and any display of defiant individuality (in this case, Arenas' sexuality) become all the more important.Read more ›
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Luis Hernandez on July 30, 2001
Format: DVD
Based on the memoirs of the late gay Cuban poet/author Reinaldo Arenas, "Before Night Falls" is a lengthy, depressing, yet brutally realistic film on the life Arenas before, during, and after the Cuban Revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. Starting with his childhood in rural Holguin, Cuba, the film covers every aspect of Arenas' upbringing, his attraction to men, and his run-ins with revolutionary agents as he became one of the island nation's most prominent writers.
Arenas, portrayed excellently by Spanish actor Javier Bardem, sees his life change dramatically, first from what he believes will become a promising age of development after the ruthless Batista regime is toppled by Castro's forces, to later a life of living in fear and hiding as he is blacklisted due to his writings and homosexuality by the new regime's ideological police.
As the film progresses, we see how Arenas deals with the repression of the regime in it's early days, and his persecution for his writings, many that were smuggled out of Cuba by French sympathizers of Arenas's work. Later arrested for a crime that he didn't commit, Arenas finds himself a fugitive living in Cuba, until he is arrested and sent to a Cuban prison before his eventual departure from the island in the Mariel Boatlift of the late 1970's
The film, which is one of the most powerful pieces of filmmaking I have seen in recent years, was directed with style and respect by Julian Schnabel. The film, which is a pioneer to the sense of the many visuals of the male anatomy/body used to illustrate this story of growing up gay in Castro's Cuba might disturb some people who are not accustomed in seeing this on the silver screen and/or gay sexuality. However, this shouldn't be a reason in not seeing this film.
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