BPM

BPM

Passionate and pulsating French drama about a group of young AIDS activists in Paris in the early 90s.

The Very Best

8.9

Movie

France
French
Drama
2017
ROBIN CAMPILLO
Adèle Haenel, Aloïse Sauvage, Antoine Reinartz
135 min

What it's about

Paris, in the early 1990s: a group of young activists is desperately tied to finding the cure against an unknown lethal disease. They target the pharmaceutical labs that are retaining potential cures, and multiply direct actions, with the hope of saving their lives as well as the ones of future generations.

The take

Autobiographical in nature, 120 BPM is French screenwriter Robin Campillo's first feature film. It revolves around the Parisian chapter of the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP, which Campillo was a member of in the early 1990s, and the love between Nathan, the group's newest member, who is HIV negative, and Sean, one of its founding and more radical members, who is positive and suffers the consequences of contracting AIDS. Using fake blood and spectacular direct action, ACT UP advocated more and better research of treatment, prevention, and awareness. This was at a time when many, implicitly or explicitly, viewed AIDS as a gay disease, even as a punishment for the gay community's propensity to pleasure and partying. The latter is reflected by the film's title, 120 bpm being the average number of beats per minute of a house track. Arnaud Rebotini's original score echoes the ecstasy-driven house music hedonism of the time with some effective original cuts, albeit with a melancholic streak. Because, for all the love, friendship, and emotion of the ACT UP crew that BPM so passionately portrays, anger and sadness pervade the lives of these young people as the lack of effective treatment threatens to claim the lives of their loved ones.

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