BEFORE NIGHT FALLS [2000 / 2002] [DVD] [USA Release]
A Total Masterpiece! A Movie You Will Love!
One of the most universally acclaimed films of the year. ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ appeared on over 75 “Ten Best” lists and features Academy Award® nominee Javier Bardem in a “mesmerising and inspired performance!” [Rex Reed, New York Observer].
Julian Schnabel [‘Basquial’] directs this incredible journey through the life and works of the late Cuban poet and author Reinaldo Arenas. Victimized by a government that banned his books and jailed him for his crime he didn’t commit. Reinaldo Arenas endured unspeakable persecution in a courageous stand against censorship and oppression. Without a country, but not without integrity, Reinaldo Arenas fled to America where he continued to fight for personal expression and produced a stirring body of work.
Featuring a duel performance by Johnny Depp. ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ is a tribute to the liberating power of art . . . and one man’s undying passion for life.
FILM FACT No.1: Director Julian Schnabel got the idea of making ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ immediately after making the film ‘Basquiat’ but however, it took four years to actually produce the film ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS.’ Javier Bardem spent one-and-a-half months in New York City with Reinaldo Arenas's best friend, Lazaro Gomez Carriles, taking two hours a day to study how Reinaldo Arenas walked and talked.
FILM FACT No.2: Awards and Nominations: 2000 Awards Circuit Community Awards: Nominated: Best Actor for Javier Bardem. 2000 Faro Island Film Festival: Nominated: Golden Train Award for Best Film for Julian Schnabel. 2000 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards: Nominated: Best Actor for Javier Bardem. 2000 National Board of Review, USA: Freedom of Expression Award: Win: Best Actor for Javier Bardem. 2000 National Board of Review, USA: Freedom of Expression Award: Win: Top 10 Films. 2000 New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Nominated: Best Actor for Javier Bardem. 2000 Venice Film Festival: Win: Grand Special Jury Prize for Julian Schnabel. 2000 Venice Film Festival: Win: OCIC Honorable Mention Award for Julian Schnabel. 2000 Venice Film Festival: Win: Rota Soundtrack Award for Carter Burwell. 2000 Venice Film Festival: Win: Volpi Cup Award: Best Actor for Javier Bardem. 2000 Venice Film Festival: Nominated: Golden Lion Award for Julian Schnabel. 2001 Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Actor in a Leading Role for Javier Bardem. 2001 AFI Award: Win: Movie of the Year. 2001 ALMA Awards: Nominated: Outstanding Feature Film. 2001 ALMA Awards: Nominated: Outstanding Latino Cast in a Feature Film. 2001 ALMA Awards: Nominated: Outstanding Soundtrack or Compilation for Television and Film. 2001 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards: Nominated: Best Actor for Javier Bardem. 2001 Film Independent Spirit Awards: Win: Best Male Lead for Javier Bardem. 2001 Film Independent Spirit Awards: Nominated: Best Feature for Jon Kilik. 2001 Film Independent Spirit Awards: Nominated: Best Director for Julian Schnabel. 2001 Film Independent Spirit Awards: Nominated: Best Cinematography for Guillermo Rosas and Xavier Grobet. 2001 GLAAD Media Award: Nominated: Outstanding Film (Limited Release). 2001 Golden Globes: Nominated: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture in a Drama for Javier Bardem. 2001 National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA: Win: Best Actor for Javier Bardem. 2001 Online Film & Television Association: Best Actor for Javier Bardem. 2001 Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards: Nominated: Best Actor in a Leading Role for Javier Bardem. 2001 Political Film Society, USA: Win: Exposé. 2001 Political Film Society, USA: Win: Human Rights. 2001 Premios ACE: Win: Cinema’s Best Actor for Javier Bardem. 2001 Russian Guild of Film Critics: Nominated: Golden Aries Award: Best Foreign Actor for Javier Bardem. 2001 Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards: Win: Best Actor for Javier Bardem. 2001 World Soundtrack Awards: Nominated: Soundtrack Composer of the Year for Carter Burwell. 2002 Chlotrudis Awards: Nominated: Best Actor for Javier Bardem. 2002 SESC Film Festival, Brazil: Win: Audience Award: Best Foreign Actor (Melhor Ator Estrangeiro) for Javier Bardem. 2002 SESC Film Festival, Brazil: Win: Critics Award: Best Foreign Actor (Melhor Ator Estrangeiro) for Javier Bardem.
Cast: Olatz López Garmendia, Giovani Florido, Loló Navarro, Batan Silva, Carmen Beato, Cy Schnabel, Olmo Schnabel, Vito Schnabel, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., Diego Luna, Lia Chapman, Sean Penn, Jerzy Skolimowski, Aquiles Benites, Ewa Piaskowska, Javier Bardem, Patricia Reyes Spíndola, Michael Wincott, Hector Babenco, Andrea Di Stefano, Marlene Díaz, Olga Borayo, Santiago Magill, Manolo García, Lola Schnabel, Ofelia Medina, Lois Barragán, Eduardo Antonio, Stella Schnabel, Olivier Martinez, Manuel González, Maurice Compte, Claudette Maillé, John Ortiz, Vincent Laresca, Rene Rivera, Chanel Puertas, Manolo Rivero, Nemo [Bus driver], Andrea Fassler, Magda [Santería Dancer], Julian Bucio, orge Zárate, Najwa Nimri, Francisco Gattorno, Marisol Padilla Sánchez, Jorge Zamora, Noel Medina, Jorge Zepeda, Yulian Díaz, Eduardo Arroyuelo, Antonio Zavala Kugler, Eloy Ganuza, Khotan Fernandez, Rene Pereyra, Abel Woolrich, Mario Oliver, Robertico Valdez, Johnny Depp, Claudio Osoria, Alfredo Villa, Diahnne Abbott, Caridad Martinez, Zulema Cruz, Annie Gil , Filiberto Estrella [Dwarf], Juan Cristóbal Murillo, Melanio Filiberto Hebra, Matthias Ehrenberg, Jack Schnabel, Esther G. Schnabel, Xavier Domingo, Eric Springer, Jimmy Nugent, Benjamín Benítez [ Rudy] (uncredited), Fidel Castro (anti-Marielito speech) (archive footage) (uncredited) and Adrian Makala [Student] (uncredited)
Director: Julian Schnabel
Producers: Jon Kilik, Julian Schnabel, Matthias Ehrenberg and Olatz López Garmendia
Screenplay: Cunningham O'Keefe (written), Jana Bokova (documentary “Havana”), Julian Schnabel (writter), Lázaro Gómez Carriles (writter) and Reynaldo Arenas (memoirs “Before Night Falls”)
Composers: Carter Burwell, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Olatz López Garmendia (music supervisor) and Susan Jacobs (music supervisor)
Costume Designer: María Estela Fernández
Cinematography: Guillermo Rosas (Director of Photography) and Xavier Pérez Grobet (Director of Photography)
Image Resolution: 1080i (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Anamorphic)
Audio: English: 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio
Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
Subtitles: English, Spanish and French
Running Time: 133 minutes
Number of discs: 1
Studio: New Line Home Entertainment / FineLine Features / Grandview Pictures
Andrew’s DVD Review: To set up the film ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ , we get this monologue narration from Reinaldo Arenas [Javier Bardem] and goes like this . . .
MAN: Trees have a secret life, it is only revealed to them, I don’t remember where I was born. But, when I was three months old, my Mother returned to my Grandparents home with me as the proof it is her child. The splendour on my childhood was unique, because of its poverty, and absolute freedom, surrounded by trees, animals and people, who were indifferent towards others.
‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ is an uncompromising, steadfast examination of the true story of Reinaldo Arenas [1943 – 1990], the exiled Cuban poet and novelist who was persecuted both for his homosexuality and for the nature of his writing, which was considered subversive and counterrevolutionary. The film's title is taken from the English translation of Reinaldo Arenas' final novel, “Antes que anochezca,” published posthumously in 1992.
Javier Bardem’s character of Reinaldo Arenas grew up in poverty in Cuba during one of the most influential times in the country’s history. Though the film only concentrates on his childhood for a few minutes, we can see that he has an affinity for poetry, and also his burdening gay sexual desires. Of course, gay poets in Cuba were not treated with any level of respect, and it may have been this persecution that led him to experience some of his sexual adventures with a prostitute at such an early age (roughly around 15 years of age).
The story is a very painful one, as Reinaldo Arenas struggles to find a place in society where he can be accepted for his sexuality and appreciated as an artist, a goal which he never achieved in Cuba. The film focuses on Reinaldo Arenas' personal life, but also provides an interesting glimpse into life in Cuba, from the period immediately preceding the revolution that put Castro into power, up to the 1980’s. We see various parts of Cuban society, from the grinding poverty of Reinaldo Arenas' childhood as a peasant, to the life of the university as a young man, to the gay scene in the city as an adult.
Reinaldo Arenas wants to join the rebels, though shunned early on by the driver who picks him up (an almost unrecognizable Sean Penn), so Reinaldo Arenas follows his heart. Though we see him next as a student, entering a young writers contest, it’s clear that Reinaldo Arenas is destined to be a great writer, or so one would think. I don’t want to give too much away, and quite frankly I can’t find a good way to put the rest of the story into words.
‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ doesn't take a specific political stance; rather, it suggests that the cruelty and oppression that Reinaldo Arenas and his friends suffer from is separate from the political and economic system; instead, it's the result of all-too-ordinary human cruelty, greed, lust for power, and intolerance, which no system is entirely free from.
Javier Bardem as Reinaldo Arenas turns in an excellent performance, keeping the viewer engaged and sympathetic to him throughout the film. Javier Bardem conveys both Reinaldo Arenas' serious side and his flashes of high-spirited humour, as well as his quiet but resolute dedication to the truth of his writing. Unfortunately, the secondary characters are not as distinctive. These characters, Reinaldo Arenas' various lovers and friends, are difficult to tell apart from each other, especially since the director seems reluctant to provide clues in the narrative to help out the viewer who has a less than perfect memory for faces. Incidentally, Johnny Depp's part is essentially a cameo, despite being given a fairly prominent listing in the cast.
‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ is just one of those kinds of films, you see. As well-made as it is, and as good as the performances are, it sometimes can be really hard to follow. If you’ve become so addicted to some of the newer films out there, you may leave partially frustrated, as Julian Schnabel l doesn’t worry much about connecting the dots in this film. The one thing that this film does do is recognizing the talents of the late Reinaldo Arenas as well as establishes Javier Bardem is one of the finer performers out there. Though he died over ten years ago, it seems that Reinaldo Arenas is finally getting the attention he so deserved during his life on this planet.
One element of the film that I found interesting was director Julian Schnabel's decision to have the actors speak with a heavy Cuban accent in the English soundtrack. While the film is paying homage to a talented Cuban artist, at the same time it is reinforcing the illiterate stereotype that “in other countries people talk in English but with a funny accent.” The English-language dialogue is a “translation” for the viewer, in place of subtitles; it should be presented as “neutral,” as the speakers would have sounded to each other in their native language and not with a fake Cuban accent. On top of that, the heavy accents make the dialogue occasionally difficult to understand, so if you have trouble understanding what they say, then best use the English subtitles.
But the film ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ is beautifully photographed and directed in an admirable manner that draws attention to style every now and then in a poetic way very fitting for a bio-pic about a poet, and at other times just utilises style to tells the story very well, and seem not to be fussing about style at all. There are scenes here where the sound effects track stops and the gorgeous cello music by Carter Burwell plays while we watch Javier Bardem sitting in a club while people dance around him, and the music tells us he is far far away and it is a wonderful evocative scene.
‘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.
Director Julian Schnabel is primarily a visual artist and secondarily a film director, and his mastery of visual media dominates this patient and precise bio of the late Reinaldo Arenas, a novelist and poet who was imprisoned and later exiled from his native Cuba for his controversial writings and his open homosexuality. It is also a film with strong and powerful moments. The film uses some documentary footage and exposition about the revolution in Cuba and the problems that people went through, but the real story is about a writer and his struggle to find peace and recognition.
At the end of the film we are informed that Reinaldo Arenas died of AIDS on the 7th December, 1990 in New York City and he was 47 years old. Three years after his death, his book, “Before Night Falls” was published.
With the End Credits it was from the film ‘PM’ by Orlando Jiménez Leal and Saba Cabrera, and was banned in Cuba in 1961.
BEFORE NIGHT FALLS MUSIC TRACK LIST
El Que Siembra Su Maiz [Written by Miguel Matamoros] [Performed by Trio Matamoros]
Tu Veras [Written by Miguel Matamoros] [Performed by Trio Matamoros]
El Tumbaito [Written by Faustino Miro and Jose Delgado] [Performed by Guayabero]
Ay Mariposa [Written by Pedro Luis Ferrer] [Performed by Pedro Luis Ferrer]
El Trio Y El Ciclon [Written by Miguel Matamoros] [Performed by Trio Matamoros]
Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes (Lacrime Di Re) [Written by Florian Fricke] [Performed by Popol Vuh]
Baton Rouge [Written by Lou Reed] [Performed by Lou Reed]
Loop Vamp [Written by Laurie Anderson] [Performed by Laurie Anderson]
Los Tamalitos De Olga [Written by Jose A. Fajardo] [Performed by Orquesta Aragón]
Descarga Sonora [Written by Javier Vasquez] [Performed by Sonora Matancera]
Crisantemo [Written by Ernesto Lecuona] [Performed by Ernesto Lecuona]
Por Que Me La Dejaste Querer? [Written by by Bola de Nieve] [Performed by Bola de Nieve]
Duerme [Written by Miguel Prado and Gabriel Luna De La Fuente] [Performed by Bebo Valdés]
Surrounding The Casbah from ‘La battaglia di Algeri’  [Written by Ennio Morricone and Gillo Pontecorvo] [Performed by Ennio Morricone]
Conoci La Paz [Written by Benny Moré] [Performed by Benny Moré]
Kamata Mariyam (Traditional) [Performed by Fairuz]
El Canonero [Written by E. Benitez] [Performed by Benny Moré]
En El Olvido [Written by Juan Jose Espinosa]
Adagietto, Sehr Langsam from Mahler's Symphony No. 5 [Written by Gustav Mahler] [Performed by Berliner Philharmoniker]
Fefita [Written by José Urfé]
Mujer Perjura [Written by Antonio Escobar]
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DVD Image Quality – New Line Home Entertainment presents us the film ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ with a pretty standard image for a DVD and is shown in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Though looking like and shot like a documentary, the scenes ooze of colour and clarity. The palette varies from Reinaldo’s lifetime, ranging from a very green during his child years to a very brown and rustic in his later years. Some scenes are stock photography, so it’s natural to assume that they look a bit worse than the film itself does, but for the most part ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ is yet another testament to how much time and care that New Line takes with their DVD releases. Edge enhancement is not an issue, because it doesn’t exist. The film has most of the time detail in some scenes is simply unbelievable. Overall, it is really good for a DVD release. While not a perfect transfer, this is the next best thing to it.
DVD Audio Quality – New Line Home Entertainment brings us the film ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ that will not light up your home theatre experience, but it does have some good audio, as evidenced by the 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio track. The dialogue is kind of wispy at times, but it’s the way the film was meant to be heard, and not a fault of the DVD and it sounds like everyone is mumbling and always looking down when they speak. I’m sure we probably look the same way to them. Still, there are some moments where the soundtrack really takes off and you’ll be glad that you’re speakers can accommodate the sound that this DVD disc puts out.
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DVD Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Audio Commentary with Director Julian Schnabel, Screenwriter Lázaro Gómez Carriles, Co-director of Photography Xavier Pérez Grobet, Actor Javier Bardem and Composer Carter Burwell  [1080i] [1.85:1] [132:54] First up to introduce themselves is Julian Schnabel and says you are listening to the DVD audio commentary, and that you are going to hear from different people about the film ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS and he hopes you find the comments constructive. Julian Schnabel now talks about the author and poet Reinaldo Arenas and found his comments about his time in Cuba and the 50 years of Cuban history interesting and of course Reinaldo Arenas sadly died in 1990 and in his lifetime witness a lot of changes in Cuban history. Julian Schnabel had a hard job with portraying the real life character of Reinaldo Arenas, especially with the amount of things that happened in the author and poet’s life, especially to condense his life into 133 minutes. Next up is Lázaro Gómez Carriles, who was a very good and close friend to Reinaldo Arenas and especially right up until his death, and was very excited to be involved in the making the film about Reinaldo Arenas, and all came about with a phone call from Julian Schnabel, especially because of the memoirs of Reinaldo Arenas, and so Julian Schnabel invited Lázaro Gómez Carriles to dinner with the director to discuss the project, but sadly whenever Lázaro Gómez Carriles speaks with a very strong accent, so I had a terrible job understanding what he was talking about, but what I did get to hear what he said, was talking about Reinaldo Arenas’ early childhood and especially being in poverty in Cuba like we see in the film, especially living with his macho grandfather, who had what he had done at school and especially carving the words in the tree, where we see the angry reaction of the grandfather in chopping down the tree and completely disowned the family which actually happened, like we see in the film. Next up is Xavier Pérez Grobet who was of course Co-director of Photography, but once again is another one with a very strong heavy accent and again really hard understanding what he was saying about his involvement with the film, but where sometimes I can understand what he is speaking about, I will of course comment on what he has said. When we see Sean Penn driving the horse and cart and Julian Schnabel says the actors accent was more Mexican than Cuban, and we were trying to give Sean Penn’s character that bewildered look, also a kind of look of a retarded character, while watching the world pass him by, but at the same time trying to give the young Reinaldo Arenas some worldly advice. When we see the old film footage of Fidel Castro and his supporters, they were very surprised that Julian Schnabel was able to obtain this film footage and even more surprised it was filmed in colour. We hear that Julian Schnabel wanted to show the struggle of Reinaldo Arenas in his early writing period and the author and the poet wanting to be recognised as a true Cuban writer and to be praised for his writings. Next up is actor Javier Bardem and informs us he played the author and poet Reinaldo Arenas and apologises saying his English is not very good, so please forgive me for this, but for me personally, I could understand every word he was speaking and not like the two previous people who have spoken that I complained about that I could not understand what they were saying because of their very heavy strong accent. Javier Bardem talks about how Julian Schnabel telephoned the actor and asked him to join him in New York, then six months later, Julian Schnabel telephoned Javier Bardem and offered him a part in the film to play the Cuban author and poet Reinaldo Arenas, and of course Javier Bardem was extremely excited as he thought the script was really good and of course was very keen to be in the film, and felt he was perfect for playing Reinaldo Arenas, but his only concern was the fact he was from Spain and his English was not very good, but despite this, Javier Bardem was very keen to portray the Cuban author and poet Reinaldo Arenas and bring this person to life on the silver screen and especially relating to all the books the author had brought out in his lifetime, so after Javier Bardem had read the script, he telephoned Julian Schnabel to confirm he was very happy to play the real life Reinaldo Arenas. Javier Bardem informs us that he originally wanted to be a painter, and he studied for that at an Art School, but found out that there was far too much theory, but hardly any practice and painting, so in the end he quit that pursuit and instead started working as an extra in films and especially in front of the camera, and thinks he wanted to pursue this profession because his grandparents were also actors, and his mother was also an actress and was very well respected in the Spanish film industry, and Javier Bardem felt that acting was in his blood. Javier Bardem says that he once stayed in Mexico for a short while, but it was very dangerous, and you go there and make love and then leave as soon as possible and he would never want to live there. Javier Bardem says that in Spain we have a sort of brotherhood towards Cuba, because Cuba has Spanish roots and we consider Cuba as a sort of brother, who is weird in itself and it is a sort of love and hate attitude, but despite that, we really do love Cuba. Javier Bardem informs us that the Cuban language is totally different from the Spanish accent, which is much harder, whereas the Cuban language is much softer and sensual, and of course Javier Bardem had to learn the Cuban language and to behave as if he was a native Cuban. Director Julian Schnabel was desperate to have the actor Marlon Brando in his film, but the actor Marlon Brando telephoned the director personally and informed him that he could not play the character the director wanted him to play, and Julian Schnabel was very touched that Marlon Brando wanted to talk to him personally, but in the end Julian Schnabel asked Marlon Brando why did he call him, and wanted to inform Julian Schnabel that if he had accepted the part the director wanted him to play, that he wanted to play the character with a French accent, but Julian Schnabel informed Marlon Brando that the film was set in Cuba and he would have had to have a Cuban accent, so they talked some more for a while and Julian Schnabel found it very difficult talking to Marlon Brando who Julian Schnabel admired the actor a great deal, and in the end Julian Schnabel informed Marlon Brando that he had to go, but would very much like to talk to the actor again sometime later on, but of course Julian Schnabel didn’t really expect to hear again from Marlon Brando. Javier Bardem inform us that the way he learnt to speak English was by listening to his favourite Heavy Metal Group AC/DC, which I found very strange, because whenever I have heard AC/DC sing, I always have a job understanding what they are singing about as to me their music is like very loud cacophony of sound, on top of all that Javier Bardem also loves listening to other heavy metal groups like Bat Out Of Hell, and spent over 10 hours listening to both group songs and especially everyday over a two month period. Director Julian Schnabel says that some directors try to keep the actors oblivious to what is happening in the film, whereas Julian Schnabel sort of likes to let the actors know what is going on and his attitude is to try to bring the actors to my orbit and thinking and try to work on things together. Julian Schnabel says that anyone who criticises the Cuban Government especially in a film and it has been very euphemistic and even films like ‘Chocolat’  and the Cuban leader Fidel Castro says these types of films were counter revolutionary films and they should never ever make these types of films of movies again, and Fidel Castro tried to make out there was total freedom in Cuba. Whenever they had the Havana Film Festival when Fidel Castro was alive, and people involved with the film festival wanted to come to Cuba, as they felt it was a wonderful film festival, and especially you had that illusion that it was free from censorship, and after everyone leaves and goes back to Hollywood and also their own country and when the Cuban people say they loved your film, but if you ever quoted that comment outside of Cuba, they would tell you that you was a liar. Someone else informs us about what life was like under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro, because if you just say one wrong word you could get arrested, also you could lose your position in the Government, even more serious you could even lose your job, and again people outside Cuba thought life was free of any oppression, and to live in Cuba at the time you had to obey what the regime told you. If they told you to go and cut sugar cane, you had to do it, and again you had no choice. Javier Bardem come back and says, this movie is not about Cuba or Fidel Castro at all, this movie is to show intolerance, and the same thing happened in Spain when Franco was in power and lots of friends of Javier Bardem ended up in jail, and when Javier Bardem lived in Spain he had left wing ideology, and his Spanish family suffered really badly under the Franco regime, exactly like when Fidel Castro was in power, and of course Javier Bardem mentions the situation when Oscar Wilde [1854 – 1900] got arrested and ended up in jail in England at the time because he was a homosexual. Javier Bardem gets into the business of sexual scenes in films, especially with this particular film and also says that some people watching a sex scene in a particular film they can sometimes feel “sexual guilt” and he thinks this is totally absurd, because it is only natural and we all like sex and sex for Javier Bardem is fine by him, whereas sex films viewed in Europe have no problem, and enjoy what they view, but when it comes to violence in films, Javier Bardem feels it is very uncomfortable viewing, also Javier Bardem feels playing a gay character is very comfortable to play someone of this type of sexual orientation, but to play a violent murderous character, well no way would ever contemplate playing that type of character in this type of film. But what Javier Bardem wants to do when playing a character in a film, is to show the truth, and that is why he was very keen to Reinaldo Arenas, even though I felt I did not look like the author and the poet, and of course the real Reinaldo Arenas had to in real life in Cuba portray a macho personality, because any hint that he was gay with feminine attitude you would be instantly arrested, so of course Javier Bardem had to study any film about Reinaldo Arenas to take in everything of his character, as the actor wanted the audience to believe he was the real Reinaldo Arenas. But when Javier Bardem was in Julian Schnabel’s New York apartment and finally sat down with a video tape of the film ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ and just started crying profusely, even right to the end of the film. Finally, here we have the last one of this group of commentators and it is the composer Carter Burwell and explained his idea about composing the film score for ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ and it was far too complicated for me to understand, but one thing I did hear from Carter Burwell is that he does not want the composed film score to make you feel it had religious overtones, because he is an atheist, so the composed film score just has to have a theme that does not indicate what it all means. We are now back with director Julian Schnabel and says the film ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ is made for the screen, and you could lick the colours off the screen, and he used different film stock, so to enhance the colour of the film, like you would of seen in the LIFE magazine in 1959, and he was thinking of filming it in black-and-white, but in the end decided to film in colour, but in a particular style of colour to make the film seem very gritty. Javier Bardem gets around to talking about his Spanish father, who at the time doing the audio commentary had passed away, six years earlier, and had a great deal of influence on Javier Bardem, but also feels family is far more important than acting, and when he was around his father, who took care of the whole family and Javier Bardem could always talk to his father about anything, and he was really close to his father, who believed in Javier Bardem and always supported him whatever he wanted to pursue. Director Julian Schnabel gets onto the subject of the business with all the soap on a piece of string you see in the film with all the prisoners that related to Reinaldo Arenas in that notorious prison who would compose letters for all the prisoners to send to their spouses and their families and Julian Schnabel wanted to show the hundreds of balls of soap on the string from the view of the seventeen cells and he wanted it to look like a massive show of hands and balls of soap, and he had a clear idea of how it would look for the viewer of the film, in having it look illogical, like these dots going across the screen, and decided to shoot it from the opposite cell to make you feel you was trapped in the cell, and Julian Schnabel really liked that image very much. Julian Schnabel comes back after a short gap and talks about the painting “The Last Supper” Italian Cenacolo, one of the most famous artworks in the world, painted by Leonardo da Vinci probably between 1495 and 1498 for the Dominican monastery Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, and actually went to visit the painting and he says you would be very surprised, because it is tucked away in a special room and in the Second World War the building actually got bombed and all the walls feel down around the painting, but the wall the paining is on survived, and eventually just after the end of the Second World War the room got fixed up and Julian Schnabel says the painting on the wall looks like it is being projected onto the wall via a slide projector, because the paint is so kinda ephemeral and very luminous, but when you get up close to the painting, it looks like the paint is breaking up. Julian Schnabel also says that they shot the film in 60 days in the rainy season in Mexico without stopping and worked a sixteen and a eighteen hour day schedule some days and worked a ten day schedule and felt it was a lot and needed two directors of photography and a crew of people willing to work hard and to march through hell with him, and a lot of them had families and truly believed in what the director wanted and even their soul. When we see actor Javier Bardem at the Customs Control to depart from Cuba, Julian Schnabel informs us then they invited any Cuban to be an extra to be filmed, to these exiles it was a very painful experience and brought back so many upsetting and painful experiences with the Fidel Castro Cuban regime on trying to leave Cuba and also when hearing the Cuban Custom extra actor asking Javier Bardem what sexual position you like in bed, and these are the actual words people heard from the original authority people in Cuba. Julian Schnabel also informs us of an experience two women who wanted to leave Cuba and informed a Cuban policeman they were lesbians and the Cuban policeman wanted to see them kiss really passionately and the Cuban policeman would let them leave Cuba, but in fact these two women were 100% heterosexual and really sisters and that is how bad it was in Cuba at the height of the Cuban revolution, also with the two sisters, the Cuban policeman told them to bring over that fag and made that man kiss one of the sisters, and sadly it turned out to be their brother, and Julian Schnabel originally wanted to film those two scenes. But later on decided not to film those two scenes, even though it was a very important and poignant story. Julian Schnabel says that when Reinaldo Arenas eventually lived in New York, Reinaldo Arenas said, “When I arrived in New York, I thought I had found this glorified Havana, the city took me into its fold, but the exiles felt that they had lost a loved one, and keeps on searching for their faith, and exiles are like ghosts, someone who never achieves full reality in exile, I cease to exist, so I started to run away from myself.” Julian Schnabel also said that he had put that statement in the film, especially in the shorter film version originally, but instead changed his mind and instead brought out the official 133 minute film version where he physically shows the painful feelings of Reinaldo Arenas. Julian Schnabel also asks, is Reinaldo Arenas a hero, but also asks if Reinaldo Arenas could have had an easier life if he would of just given up his struggles, and instead being true to himself and given up writing if he had hidden his sexuality and gone along with everyone else, and maybe would have been easier that way, but of course he didn’t do that, and I think the fact that he had a very difficult life and we are talking about him ten years after his death and I think he knew who he was and I do not know if he would of changed places with anyone else, even though his life was filled with horror and obstacles and he wrote 20 novels and still kept writing and was immortalised through his writings everything came to him, and of course eventually if you have a material life, then you have life. Julian Schnabel also says very poignantly, that Americans in general do not have any idea in any sense about Latin culture, as well as part of Latin America and the Latin World in general, and I feel very Cuban and I also feel like an exiled Cuban now and I have been surrounded by many exiled Cuban’s that I love very dearly and also says that all Cubans who have viewed this film, feel it is very authentic, feel like it is real and thank Julian Schnabel for making the movie and it is just not the movie itself, it is something else, and it is educational, and it is something that might break down the walls of intolerance, and of course people who would like to make this type of movie, would of course end up in jail. At that point the main part of the audio commentary ends and it was quite interesting with all the input from everyone and was a good way of finding out about the real author and poet Reinaldo Arenas.
Special Feature: Improper Conduct [Mauvaise Conduite]  [480i] [1.37:1] [6:58] Here we get to view an excerpt for the “Improper Conduct” with the Cuban author and poet Reinaldo Arenas and is a document of the intolerance towards homosexuals and dissidents in Castro’s Cuba, that was first broadcast on French television in 1984, where we get a rare interview with Reinaldo Arenas. It was directed by Néstor Almendros Cuyás, A.S.C. [Spanish cinematographer] and Orlando Jiménez Leal [Film director]. Throughout the interview we get English subtitles. Please Note: Clips from ‘Improper Conduct’ was courtesy of Orlando Jiménez Leal.
Special Feature: Behind The Scenes  [480i] [1.78:1] [7:41] Here we get to see a behind-the-scene home video by Lola Schnabel who is the daughter of the director Julian Schnabel who had her own video camera and filmed various behind-the-scenes parts while during the filming of ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS.’ You also get a running audio commentary by Lola Schnabel. Not much here, as the title dictates the content, but it’s interesting to say the least.
Special Feature: Little Notes on Painting  [480i] [1.78:1] [14:30] Julian Schnabel’s paintings and sculptures have been exhibited all over the World and Julian Schnabel’s work has been included in private and public collections, including at the New York’s Museum of modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bilbao’s Guggenheim, Paris’ Center Georges Pompidou, London’s Tate Gallery Tyko’s Metropolitan Museum and The National Gallery in Washington D.C. to list a few. Here we get to view an exclusive rare interview with director Julian Schnabel and a look round at the Julian Schnabel’s Studio in February 2001, which was originally a perfume factory at the turn of the century, and in 1987 Julian Schnabel took over the building. Here Julian Schnabel shows us his own work and gives some brief explanation as to what the art represents and the way he painted them. To sum up what I think of his so called paintings and especially when Julian Schnabel explains what the paintings mean, and to me it is just a load of pompous crap and as to the paintings themselves, well to me they are just total crap rubbish.
Special Feature: Cast and Crew: Here we get to view just a small sample of the people involved with the film ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS.’ With the Cast list we have Javier Bardem, Olivier Martinez, Andrea di Stefano, Johnny Depp and Michael Wincott. With the Crew list we have Julian Schnabel, Xavier Pérez Grobet, Guillermo Rosas, Reinaldo Arenas, Lázaro Gómez Carriles and Carter Burwell.
Theatrical Trailer  [1080i] [1.85:1] [2:08] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS.’
Finally, ‘BEFORE NIGHT FALLS’ structure of the film is mainly chronological, but with some interesting flashbacks and other nonlinear scenes. For instance, when Reinaldo Arenas is dreaming or describing something, we'll sometimes we get a scene depicting his flight of fancy, presented as if it were real. There are also a few clips from historical footage, such as the exodus from Cuba to the U.S.A, in 1980. In an interesting film connection, these are the same events, and some of the same historical footage, that are used in the beginning of Scarface, though obviously the protagonists are polar opposites! Overall, this variation in the structure makes the film distinctive. The pace slows down in the last thirty or forty minutes of the film, though; the earlier parts are stronger, all in all it is a totally absorbing and amazing film and you learn so much about the real Reinaldo Arenas, the exiled Cuban poet and author. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso