Thursday, October 26, 2017

BPM (Beats Per Minute)

The HIV/AIDS crisis was a pivotal moment for both the LGBT+ community and the medical world. Here was a disease that was practically a death sentence for those who contracted it, and people fought vigorously for proper treatment (both medically and emotionally). But such fighting tends to get glossed over.

Robin Campillo's BPM (Beats Per Minute) follows such fights against a backdrop of 1990s Paris. Revolving around a group of ACT UP activists, it follows their attempts to get more people to know what's slowing killing some of them. Their actions are aggressive (but not violent), many times to garner some publicity.

Also on display in BPM (Beats Per Minute) is the budding romance between fellow activists Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) and Nathan (Arnaud Valois). What Campillo shows with this is that love knows no bounds (Sean is HIV-positive, Nathan isn't). The two only have a pair of sex scenes (the second being the most emotionally erotic example you'll ever see) but that's not important to this situation. What matters is how sex -- especially in this context -- isn't viewed as shameful.

Campillo and co-writer Philippe Mangeot were both involved in ACT UP so they drew on personal experience for BPM (Beats Per Minute). They depict the organization as one not aiming to be a martyr but instead wanting to stop seeing friends and loved ones as statistics for the death toll. (And different from similar works, women play just crucial a role as the men.)

BPM (Beats Per Minute) is a far cry from other AIDS-themed works like Longtime Companion and Philadelphia. Its afflicted characters don't just lay down and die following such a diagnosis; they fight back with the sort of ferocity usually reserved for war movies. In short, seek this out.

My Rating: *****

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