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Before Night Falls & Adelaide shorts

Before Night Falls
writer/director Julian Schnabel
co-writers Cunningham O’Keefe, Lázaro Gómez Carriles
Distributor Dendy Films
Release date September 6

A thorn in Fidel Castro’s side, Latin American novelist/poet Reinaldo Arenas was imprisoned in Cuba in the 1970s for his “anti-revolutionary” writing and homosexuality. Julian Schnabel’s elegiac film Before Night Falls paints a vivid and moving portrait of Arenas’ life, hallucinations, wanderings, flight of imagination, and ultimate exile to the United States until the time of his tragic death from AIDS. From out of the sea, the story of Arenas’ emerging literary talent, sexual impulses and political persecution are woven seamlessly in the cinematography of Xavier Perez Grobet and Guillermo Rosasfrom, from archival newsreel footage of Castro’s Cuba, simulated reportage, re-constructed memories, and passages from his poetic texts. We experience Arenas’ fragmented reality, sensations, a sensuous homoerotic floating world, that slowly disconnects from reality, a life dissolving, as he is pushed to the periphery of society, an Outsider.

Inspired by his autobiography Before Night Falls, and other writings The Hallucinations, The Parade Ends, The Colour of Summer, Schnabel brings Arenas’ silenced/censored voice to film. Ironically, from the impulse of Latin American Cinema Novo’s anti-Hollywood rejection of imitation and populism, Schnabel casts Hollywood stars Johnny Depp (Lieutenant Victor & transvestite Bon Bon) and Sean Penn (Cuco Sanchez) alongside Spanish actor Javier Bardem (Reinaldo Arenas). However, Reinaldo ultimately finds no paradise lost in liberation/exile to capitalist New York, only suffering and the deterioration of mind, physical and spiritual death. The film recalls cinema as a gun, the violent depiction of Reinaldo’s historic/political reality, moving between documentary and narrative modes, the themes of repression and social injustice.

Tatiana Pentes

Raw Meat and Radio; Ex Post Facto; Girls on Loos; Derph

Rhino Room, Adelaide, July 15

A city is a skatescape, a row of toilets, or a village of the lonely, depending on your perspective.

Raw Meat and Radio, by Renée Gifford, sympathetically examines the loneliness of the middle-aged single. A talkback radio voiceover discusses their plight while a man shops at the supermarket for meat and a woman packages it for display. A meaty metaphor, and no happy ending.

Rebecca Summerton’s Ex Post Facto depicts a woman with a fresh scar on her face telling a succession of unresponsive people that someone is smashing windows nearby. A doctor sutures her face—“the scar will give you character”, he consoles. It transpires that she is the smasher.

Sophie Hyde calls her Girls on Loos a “theatrical documentary.” Interviews with women are interspersed with vaudevillian performances in a public toilet block. The doco covers poo songs, graffiti, toilet sex and intimacy, whether you are a toilet paper ‘folder’ or ‘scruncher’, and drugs in loos. Beneath the hilarious anecdotes are deep insights into what happens between women in public toilets.

Derph, by Bryan Mason, is an absorbing look at skateboarding culture, profiling committed (addicted?) skateboarders—their adventures, run-ins with the law, successes and crashes. Backed by a hypnotic blend of jazz and rap, this brilliant footage must have been shot by a pursuing roller-blader with a mini-camcorder. Derph is breathtaking, a must-see.

Chris Reid

RealTime issue #45 Oct-Nov 2001 pg. 23

© RealTime ; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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