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PRINT January 2001

film

Julian Schnabel's Before Night Falls

Julian Schnabel’s decision to follow his elliptical 1996 biopic of Jean-Michel Basquiat with a film about Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas might intimate a morbid allegiance to the cult of the dead artist. But beyond vague structural similarities between the two films, there is little in Before Night Falls (which opened Dec. 22) to suggest that the cinematic possibilities that drew Schnabel to Arenas were the same that had drawn him to Basquiat.

Schnabel’s self-conscious, intermittently beautiful movie about Basquiat’s rapid rise and fall seemed prompted as much by the painter-turned-Director’s desire to satirize the seductive and treacherous ’80s art world as by his interest in Samo’s psychological disintegration. Not only did Schnabel inscribe himself in the film, but his use of found footage, dabbed in to capture Basquiat’s inner life, presumably told us as much about Schnabel’s imagination

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