Before Night Falls Blu-ray Review: Expresses the Overall Importance of Artists and Their Art

Sometimes, it’s not always easy to embrace the cinematic biopic. There are the usual liberties and inaccuracies to be found in many of these cinematic biographies. However, when one is done right, you instantly know it. Director Julian Schnabel did just that with Before Night Falls (2000), his lyrical, rich tribute to the late, renowned Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas.

Through different time periods, the film paints an expressive portrait of Arenas from his rural beginnings, where he joined the revolution as a teenager during Castro’s rise to power in the 1950s, to being a talented writer who was prosecuted for being homosexual, wrongfully accused of a baseless crime and put in a horrible prison in for two years. He was then released in 1976 and exiled to the United States in 1980 where he started a new life in New York and eventually succumbed to AIDS in 1990.

Yes, the film does follow common cliches of biopics, but it manages to create a poignant artistry of Arenas’ life and works that is also brought to life by the always amazing Javier Bardem (who magnetically embodies Arenas and provides a spirited narration throughout, reading from Arenas’ novels and poems). There are also great cameos by Sean Penn (albeit in brownface) and especially Johnny Depp (excelling in dual roles as the transgressive Bon Bon and the lecherous Lt. Víctor) and proved, at least back then, that he was still sexy, capable, and talented. Oliver Martinez also does great work as well as Lázaro Gómez Carriles, Arenas’ close friend and confidant during the last years of his life. Carriles himself co-wrote the film’s screenplay.

Before Night Falls expresses the overall importance of artists and their art, and their fight against never-ending censorship and oppression. And it also tells us to be true to ourselves, no matter what circumstances we face. For that (and other facets), this film is a masterpiece and remains one of the best and most shattering films that ever came out of the new millennium.

Special features include commentary with Schnabel, Bardem, Carriles, composer Carter Burwell, and co-cinematographer Xavier Perez Grobet; excerpts from a 1983 interview with Arenas; behind-the-scenes home movie by Lola Schnabel; Little Notes on Painting Artwork; and theatrical trailer.

Posted in , ,


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Search & Filter