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, ... See full summary »
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Steven Lee Edwards
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Frank and Jack Baker are professional musicians who play small clubs. They play schmaltzy music and have never needed a day job. Times are changing and dates are becoming more difficult to ... See full summary »
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." Written by
Set in Cuba, the film was made entirely in Mexico, with Veracruz doubling as Havana. Julian Schnabel said the crew was so pleasant to work with that, if he was making a film in the arctic, he would use a Mexican crew. See more »
Walking along streets that collapse from crumbling sewers. Past buildings that you jump to avoid because they will fall on you. Past grim faces that size you up and sentence you. Past closed shops, closed markets, closed cinemas, closed parks, closed cafes. Sometimes showing dusty signs, justifcations: "CLOSED FOR RENOVATION," "CLOSED FOR REPAIRS." What kind of repairs? When will these so-called renovations be finished? When at last will they begin? Closed... closed... closed... everything ...
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Many praises for a movie about freedom and artistic expression
Before Night Falls is a brilliantly devised and executed account about the famed Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas. The film documents his childhood as a peasant, his support for Castro's rebels as an idealist youth, and as a man, his struggles, not just as an independent thinker but also as a gay man living in Communist Cuba. Throughout the film we respond to his hopes, fears, and claustrophobia as we witness the persecution of a true artist.
As a student of Latin American History and Literature I was pleased with the way the film handled the historical context of Arenas' time. The political context of Before Night Falls shouldn't come as any surprise. The artistic, social and political invisibility of gays in Cuba under the Cuban Revolution represented a dark stain on the revolutionary record. In 1965 Fidel Castro told Lee Lockwood (in Castro's Cuba, Cuba's Fidel) that `we would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true Revolutionary, a true communist militant. A deviation of that nature clashes with the concept we have of what a militant Communist must be' In the mid-1960's, the infamous UMAP work camps (Unidades Militares de Auyuda a la Producción) sought to rehabilitate what they perceived as alleged antisocial elements. This is an event that is accurately depicted in Schnabel's film. The purges and denunciations of homosexuals continued into the 1980's. Today in Cuba discrimination against gays still represents a major problem. The revolution dealt with gender and racial discrimination but not with discrimination against gays. This is all documented with stunning use of archival footage and reference accounts from Arenas' autobiography.
Any review of the film would be incomplete without mentioning Javier Bardem's work. I have seen a lot of movies and few performances are even in the same league as Bardem's. I was fascinated with how he carried this film with a performance that must have been very difficult for him to adjust to. The supporting work by Johnny Depp should also be praised. His dual performance, for me, accurately identified how many within Castro's army may have used their positions as a front to deny their own sexuality as well. Overall, I was very impressed with this film and I highly recommend it
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