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Before Night Falls [2001] [DVD]


Price: £4.82 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp, Olatz López Garmendia, Giovanni Florido, Loló Navarro
  • Directors: Julian Schnabel
  • Writers: Julian Schnabel, Cunningham O'Keefe, Jana Bokova, Lázaro Gómez Carriles, Reynaldo Arenas
  • Producers: Julian Schnabel, Jon Kilik
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: 5 Aug. 2002
  • Run Time: 127 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000067NPE
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,228 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Product Description

Language: English
Subtitles: English Hard of Hearing
Original Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16 x 9)
Sound Quality: Dolby 5.1

From Amazon.co.uk

Based on the posthumously published memoir by Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls is artist-director Julian Schnabel's second exercise in artist biography, but where Schnabel's earlier film Basquiat was relatively conventional, this film is bolder in both style and execution. Schnabel is perhaps too enamoured of his subject as a noble martyr, lending the film a somewhat inflated sense of importance. Still, it's rare to see an artist's life and work so elegantly interwoven, and Before Night Falls uses all of Arenas's life as its canvas, from impoverished youth to lively gay freedom in mid-1950's Cuba; imprisonment during Castro's antigay regime; and to New York City in 1980, followed by Arenas's battle with AIDS and subsequent suicide (depicted here as assisted) in 1990.

Through these extreme rises and falls, Arenas is always writing; his typewriter his most faithful lover and weapon (by way of smuggled manuscripts) against the dark forces that surround him. As Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, Arenas is "a serious actor's dream role: to be a gay Jesus in a modern Passion Play," and Javier Bardem--the first Spanish actor to receive an Oscar nomination--inhabits the role with subtle ferocity, charting this emotional odyssey with outer reserve but blazing infernos of internal passion. While Schnabel suffers from a hyperactive camera, there's poetry here--visual, dramatic, and literal--and vibrant humour to temper the deep tragedy of Arenas's life. Schnabel also uses his actor friends to good advantage: a nearly unrecognizable Sean Penn adds an ironic touch to his brief appearance as a peasant, and Johnny Depp is both funny and fearsome in dual roles as a drag queen and vicious army interrogator. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Westley on 8 Aug. 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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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Serkan Silahsor on 16 Jan. 2008
Format: DVD
A beautiful film in every terms: from outstanding cinematography to dazzling ambiance, from stirring performances to gripping theme. Having the bittersweet taste of an independent film, it defies categorization, grimly realistic and highly improvisational. What I particularly found captivating is its almost-documentary nature and realness, a razor-sharp realness disguised under character persona.

The film traces the chaotic life of Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas, from his unwanted birth in absolute poverty in Oriente to his death in NYC at the age of 47. Multi-layered and absorbing, the film follows a narrative-based episodic course and never gets bogged down in long and boring psychological analyses and free from any kind of unnecessary details. What's more, mercifully no moron-oriented Hollywood sentimentality is dragged in to undermine its effectiveness.

From the very beginning, ex neo-expressionist painter Julian Schnabel, famous for huge canvasses, imbues the film with vibrant colors and stylish "strokes". Everything begins with a highly artsy-craftsy scene which heralds the coming of the striking leitmotif: a close-up of a little boy, totally naked, playing with mud in a squalid hole surrounded by an incredible beauty. He's naked because he possesses no clothes; he's playing with mud because he owns no toys. From now on, his childhood in absolute poverty, his youthful idealism to join to rebels against Batista regime, the discovery of his writing talents as well as his homosexuality, his sufferings during repression and persecution period just after Cuban Revolution, his arrest and brutal imprisonement at El Morro, his escape to the U.S.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Aug. 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I haven't seen this for a while but I think its quite stunning. Its poignant, moving, interesting and humourous, tragic and shocking. The latter refers simply to the fact that Reinaldo Arenas' life ended in this suicide, when the film creates (in its portrayal of 1950's Cuba) a world almost before innocence lost! Obviously that might not make sense completely - But I mean it is portrayed as a vibrant, bright, free and easy world.
This contrasts strongly with the representation of Castro-era Communism.
I think the film, like the book, is just utterly moving and quite beautifully filmed. As well, it makes some important observations about the period in history and freedom from censorship, be it the banning of free media/authorship or the censorship of unwanted deviants from society.
If you haven't seen it, do so. You'll be proud to have it and see it again.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By waterceltfire on 24 Sept. 2005
Format: DVD
Having just watched this for the second time in a month, after having first taped it to help with my spanish studies (and because of the added bonus of Johnny Depp being in it!), it is one of my favourite films. I hadn't heard of Reinaldo Arenas previously, but the absolutely perfect performance that Javier Bardem gives, and the beautiful directing of this film, the production, the music, the colourfulness, Johnny Depp and Sean Penn's cameos, the clips of a previously banned film as the credits roll ... all of it tells the most touching story, contrasting the abuse of human rights with a very touching humanity.
The times when the pace of the film slows I found to be most effective in making you care even more, and feel much closer to, Reinaldo, almost as if the film had gone into real time and you suddenly realised you were almost in the room with the characters, and at their most vulnerable time. The slowing of the pace happens occasionally, but most of all as Reinaldo's health is deteriorating; as with the whole of the film, this is impeccably handled. This film's had me in tears both times, near the end, and I don't easily cry at anything! Amazing movie, powerful and well worth seeing again and again. One of the most human films I can recall seeing.
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