Before Night Falls [DVD] [2000]

Director Julian Schnabel's film adaptation of writer Reinaldo Arenas' memoirs is stunning in this DVD edition. The 1.85:1 widescreen presentation might show some grain, but co-cinematographers Xavier Perez Grobet and Guillermo Rosas' photography is full of lush colors and warm flesh tones. The Dolby Digital Sound is also impressive, with particular kudos going to the translation of composer Carter Burwell's haunting score. The supplemental material adds great depth to the movie, from the stylish black-and-white menus to the short documentary features. The three documentaries included are a seven-minute interview with the late Arenas, a joyous behind-the-scenes featurette by the director's daughter (Lola Schnabel), and an interesting 15-minute tour by the director of his massive painting studio. The film-long commentary track, edited from sessions with Julian Schnabel, star Javier Bardem, screenwriter Lazaro Gomez Carriles, Burwell, and Grobet, might be slow moving, but it reveals great insight into the life of Arenas and the production of the movie. Filmographies for the principal actors and crew and instant access to the DVD's 27 chapters round out the disc.
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Overview

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Special Features

  • Widescreen version
  • 5.1 Surround Sound
  • 2.0 stereo Surround Sound
  • 5.1 Spanish audio track
  • English, Spanish, and French subtitles and English closed captions
  • Commentary with director Julian Schnabel, actor Javier Bardem, screenwriter Lázaro Gómez-Carriles, composer Carter Burwell, and co-director of photography Xavier Pérez Grobert
  • Documentary shorts: excerpts from "Improper Conduct," 1983 interview with Reinaldo Arenas, behind-the-scenes/home movie by Lola Schnabel, "Little Notes on Painting" artwork by Julian Schnabel
  • Cast and crew filmographies
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • DVD-ROM content
  • Link to original website

Synopsis

Before Night Falls
For his sophomore feature film effort, visual artist Julian Schnabel chronicles the life of one of Cuba's most charismatic literary voices, the late Reinaldo Arenas. Working with Arenas' friends and family, Schnabel recounts the author's impoverished rural upbringing and the intense love and support he receives from his mother (played by the director's wife, Olatz Lopez Garmendia). As a young man, Arenas (Javier Bardem) is singled out by his teachers and encouraged to further his skills as a writer -- no easy task, considering the Castro regime's censorship of any work considered to be subversive or anti-authoritarian. Still, the author manages to smuggle his work out of the country through friends, who arrange for one of his novels to be published in France. Not only persecuted for his creative beliefs, the openly gay Arenas is jailed on a bogus sex charge; he escapes internment only to be captured and persecuted later for his contraband dispatches. In 1980, Arenas is finally allowed to leave Cuba for the United States, where he achieves freedom of expression but not prosperity. Schnabel's first film was another portrait of an artist, 1996's Basquiat; Bardem made his name in several of director Pedro Almodovar's Spanish-language productions. Before Night Falls premiered at the 2000 Venice Film Festival, where it received the Best Actor and Grand Special Jury prizes, and made its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Bardem would go on to receive a host of accolades, including an eventual Best Actor nomination at the 2001 Academy Awards. ~ Michael Hastings, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Javier Bardem
    Javier Bardem - Reinaldo Arenas
  • Olivier Martinez
    Olivier Martinez - Lazaro Gomez Carriles
  • Andrea Di Stefano
    Andrea Di Stefano - Pepe Malas
  • Johnny Depp
    Johnny Depp - Bon Bon, Lieutenant Victor

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