Before Night Falls Reviews

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June 26, 2015
Surely an important illustration of the dark side to Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba as this film is about how artists and homosexuals were treated, in particular Reinaldo Arenas, of whom this is a biopic. This had one major drawback for me, the film contains several sections of dialogue in unsubtitled Spanish. I don't speak Spanish so these parts were lost on me and I'm sure many others.
November 23, 2014
First of 20% of the movie is in Spanish, so as an English speaker I don't even know what's happening. I didn't like it and don't understand the high rating's, maybe it's targeted at a particular segment and they can appreciate it better. The other big stars are in guest appearance roles and basically Javier Bardem carry's the whole movie and does a great job of it but it's a waste and seems pointless as the only thing I got from the movie was that it's about a Gay writer in Cuba - that's it. The only part I enjoyed in the movie was the prison scene which must have been only 10 minutes long, waste of time.
½ November 13, 2014
***Due to the recent RT changes that have basically ruined my past reviews, I am mostly only giving a rating rather than a full review.***
August 10, 2014
The filmmaker has translated a poetic memoir into film. Certain adjustments were necessary - material elided or invented - but on the whole it is true to the written account. What is missing is Arenas' particular sense of humor, and also his very specific way of setting down facts - a poetry of specificity, in fact. Still, it's a serious and successful account of an important writer. Recommended to all who have an interest in poetry, the Cuban revolution, and human rights.
½ November 7, 2012
Javier Bardem is remarquable.
I dont like Schnabel as a director though. I dont like the way he directs and i dont like his narration.
I dont quite understand what are Sean Penn& Johnny Depp doing in the movie, even thoug they are both fantastic and seeing Johnny Depp touching himself is priceless!
January 14, 2014
Biography of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, this film follows his early starts then his exile from Cuba to the united states. It's very well shot by visual artist Julian Schnabel, well written & very different from most biographical films but it's an interesting film to watch.
December 7, 2013
My Favorite Film Is 1941's Citizen Kane.
February 22, 2009
Before Night Falls (Julian Schnabel, 2000)
[originally posted 19Feb2001]

[ed. note 2013: I originally saw the film a week or so after it was released. I had no words; I posted a two- or three-sentence review to Amazon. I wrote this over a year later; by that time, I'd watched it at least fifty times, including three times in a row when IFC played it for six hours back to back the night they premiered it. In that initial Amazon review I called it maybe the best movie ever made; thirteen years and change later, as of this writing, it is still #1 on my thousand best movies list; only a single movie, Hotaru no Haka, has ever even come close to dethroning it.]

Usually, I give a film five stars when it contains no flaws at all, when it's so unerringly perfect that it's impossible not to like. This time, I give a film five stars (the twenty-third film ever to get five stars, for those who are counting) despite flaws. Before Night Falls is that good.

Before Night Falls is based on the memoir of the same name by Cuban author Reynaldo Arenas, who ran away from home as an adolescent to join the rebel armies moving against Batista in 1958. Shortly thereafter, Castro came into power, and as Arenas grew up and became a writer, he was soon made to realize that there was no place for him in the world he'd helped to set up.

Javier Bardem, who plays Arenas from the writer's early twenties until his death in 1990, is a revelation. Best Actor isn't good enough to recognize and celebrate Bardem's complex and wrenching performance. He and Schnabel have the same understanding of Arenas' story, and the same desire in presenting it. While Schnabel contrasts the sere beauty of the Cuban landscape (and the even more sere beauty Arenas tries to evoke from the ugliness of New York City later in life), Bardem constantly reminds us that Arenas' life wasn't only about being oppressed, but about the simple joys of quotidian life in Cuba. The contrasts inherent in the film make the inevitable twists of the knife just a bit harder to take each time, and the cumulative effect is devastating.

There are some difficulties with the film. Many of the accents fade in and out of recognizability, to the point where the average American viewer will probably not understand what's being said in a few places, especially early on in the film. The general bent of what's being said is never lost, however. The pacing is inconsistent, as well, and the film drags ever so slightly in a couple of places. Both of these problems are forgivable within the greater framework, as Schnabel, first-time scriptwriter Cunningham O'Keefe, and Bardem come together with a spectacular ensemble cast (highlighted by Johnny Depp, once again showing up for less than five minutes in a film, this time in a double role) to create not only the best film of the year by far, but a film that, if there is any justice in the world, is destined to be remembered as one of the finest pieces of cinematic work ever committed to film. Finds a place very high up on the 100 Best list-perhaps at the top. *****
½ November 2, 2013
Primeira indicação ao Oscar de Bardem.
September 8, 2013
The first stand-out biopic of the New Millennium
½ July 4, 2013
Moving biopic of the life of Reinaldo Arenas, Cuban dissident writer and intellectual brutally imprisoned for his "decadent" novels by the totalitarian Castro regime. How ironic that one of the places enticing with the thought of freedom in Arenas' time in Cuba was Guantanamo Bay. A stellar performance by Xavier Bardem.
½ July 9, 2013
Works because of the strong source material, but also fails because the director messes it up at times.
½ March 4, 2008
An artistic biography. Great performance from Javier Bardem and I will never forget Johnny Depp as a transvestite. But who cares?
April 12, 2013
One of my all-time favourite movies. Bardem is magnificent as the lead, the soundtrack is so beautiful that I purchased it just to listen to it alone and the clever cameos by Johnny Depp are a treat. This film touches the heart of what it is to be an artist, especially one living through the toughest of conditions.
½ September 21, 2007
It's an horrific and tragic story, but somehow made beautiful through the care and attention of Schnabel's direction and Bardem's tender, unforgettable performance.
November 20, 2012
One of Bardem's shows. A-must-see gem.
November 3, 2012
beautiful, tragic, and artistically marvelous
October 31, 2012
A great movie so well directed and acted by Mr. Bardem
October 13, 2012
I know nothing about Reinaldo Arenas, but I still found this movie really interesting. And looking at it from an artistic point of view, it's also brilliantly acted and visually beautiful. It's very long, and a bit slow paced, so it probably won't appeal to everyone, but I found it pretty engaging.
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