120 battements par minute [BPM (Beats Per Minute)] (2017)

120 battements par minute
Director: Robin Campillo
Writer: Robin Campillo, Philippe Mangeot
Cast: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel , Antoine Reinartz, Félix Maritaud, Ariel Borenstein, Aloïse Sauvage
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 23.10.2017

It’s the early 1990s and HIV/AIDS has already claimed many lives, but little is done to combat it. Advocacy Group ACT UP is trying to change that, planning several different interventions. Nathan (Arnaud Valois) has just joined the group and is swept up in their relentless energy. Or is he more swept off his feet by Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) who seems to live for the activism?

120 BPM is not perfect, but it is a strong film, a love letter to activism and an emotional journey that will leave you breathless.

120 BPM reminds me a little of Angels in America. Not just because of the topic and the time, although there are enough similarities there, but also because of the dynamic between the two central characters. Also, because the film is (much like the play) White Boy Central – 120 BPM does show a black man, a trans woman and a deaf man, so hints at the fact that the activism wasn’t just done by white men (and a white woman), but it doesn’t really find that important enough to spend more time with anybody but the white boys.

Apart from that, though, I really enjoyed the film. The energy of the activism and the entire group translates perfectly on screen and it left me wondering where this type of activism went in the last 20 years or so, because I don’t feel like I see it anymore.

It takes a bit for the film to get started, but I did like the meandering beginning. Hands down the best thing about the film, though, where the clubbing scenes, where fun and politics raise dust, melt with science and create an utterly entrancing, expressionistic dreamscape that felt  inescapable. It was beautifully done and those scene were the heart of the film for me.

At the end of the film, I laughed and I cried and I had learned something about the time. Those are pretty amazing achievements for any film and a satisfying experience for the viewer.

Summarizing: Really good.

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