This is the story of Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas. Raised in the Oriente Province of Cuba in the 1940s, Arenas began his life-long love of the sea and water. Leaving home as a young adolescent, he moves to Havana where he finds himself swept up in the revolutionary spirit and joins a circle of writers and artists. His first novel, "Singing from the Well," is published in Cuba, but as Castro's oppressive regime gathers force, Arenas' homosexuality and political writing make him a target. After being falsely accused of molestation, Arenas is arrested and imprisoned at El Morro. Eventually released from prison after dehumanizing treatment, Arenas flees Cuba in the 1980 Mariel Harbor boatlift. After moving to New York with his friend Lazaro Gomez Carilles, Arenas' hopes for a new life are destroyed by AIDS, and he dies in 1993, at the age of 45.
Julian Schnabel's romanticized portrait of the exiled gay Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, who died of AIDS, imagines pre-Castro Cuba as a pagan paradise of endless erotic promise ruined by the puritanical Communists, whom Arenas initially embraced then turned against. Javier Bardem's arresting performance paints Arenas as an emotionally volatile daredevil. But this biography, which incorporates swaths of Arenas's writing, is sketchy, and the star's thick Spanish accent is daunting. It's still quite indelible. — Stephen Holden
2000-10-06 | Stephen Holden | Read the New York Times Review of Before Night Falls