Because everyone adored this film, I feel bad that I spent a quarter of its two-hour running time desperately wishing it was over. It's a lovely movie to look at, and Javier Bardem is unsurprisingly a joy to watch, but I felt little for Before Night Falls. I'm not moved by the idea that sex - transgressive or otherwise - is a revolutionary act; that comforting hedonistic viewpoint is a retreat from responsibility, and you don't have to condemn sexual pleasure to acknowledge that it often finds its way into political 'resistance' in a chaotic and unprincipled way. That said, Night's portrait of the Cuban Communists' thuggish anti-aesthetic viciousness, and of the complicated wire-crossing sexual tensions among gay Cubans, is interesting.
So why did I get so little out of it? I suspect I disconnected from the (exciting, lovely) first act, which chronicled Arenas's life as a young bohemian writer. When I read Tropic of Cancer in college, the novelist/hound dog character called out to me - I wanted to be Henry Miller, minus the venereal diseases. Eight years on, I don't have the same longing and affection for that type, and for better or worse, there was little in Arenas's story that I hadn't seen anywhere else. I admire Arenas as portrayed in the film, but past that, the point of the film is its own dreamy fuck-the-philistines vibe, and I guess someone flipped a hidden switch in my brain tonight - I couldn't raise up any energy for it after the first thirty minutes or so.
It's a good enough film; go see it. Bardem's Oscar nomination was well-deserved. But the movie is neither groundbreaking nor heartbreaking, and however I felt about those two hours of story, I'm weirdly angry that I want to hold my own disaffection against myself. Who am I to tell me how to feel? And that's the Gordian Ought, Reader(s).