BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

Original title:  120 battements par minute

, 2017.  , , , , , , , , , , .  Screenplay by Robin Campillo, .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by Robin Campillo, , .  

Director Robin Campillo looks back to his own days as a member of the Paris chapter of the AIDS activist group Act Up.  It’s 1989 and members of the HIV-positive community and their friends are, like the Americans who started the group a few years earlier, out of patience with the government’s delays, the public’s intolerance and the corporate greed that are not permitting the breakthroughs in medical technology that could deal with the crisis.

A great deal of the group’s members are themselves ill and don’t have time to play nice with the politicians and pharmaceutical representatives who, they feel, are not doing their best, going after them in headline-grabbing stunts that involve interrupting medical conferences, breaking into office buildings and throwing around a lot of balloons full of fake blood.

The narrative is rooted in the many scenes of weekly meetings whose impressively natural rhythm of conversing back and forth resembles the best kind of procedural French drama that can be so compelling (Polisse comes to mind, or The Classwhich Campillo co-wrote).  No matter how much these dedicated and intelligent young people spar with each other, and in some cases reach very unpleasant disagreements with the way they mean to do things, there is a lot of love and affection as well, not to mention the shared pleasures of sex and dancing in night clubs that shows the director expressing great admiration and loving nostalgia for the group’s achievements.

The final sequence, which shows unity under the most important experience that any of these members would have to face, is the perfect cap on an enlightening and moving film.

Campillo’s writing and direction are superb, but he also assembles a flawless cast with no weak spots, the best of them as the would-be protagonist Sean, whose own personal conflicts are as dramatic as what he faces against the outside world, and as one of the most intelligent and articulate of the activists.

Cannes Film Festival Award:  Grand Jury Prize

European Film Award:  Best European Editor
Nominations: Best European Film; Best European Actor (Nahuel Perez Biscayart)

Toronto International Film Festival:  2017


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