BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE)

The Georgia Straight - - Movies - > CRAIG TAKEUCHI

Star­ring Ar­naud Valois. In French, with English sub­ti­tles. Rat­ing un­avail­able

An irony of many so­cial move­ments is how 2

suc­cess can of­ten cre­ate new chal­lenges. HIV ac­tivism is no ex­cep­tion. It’s timely, then, that BPM (Beats Per Minute) ar­rives with its in­sider’s wart­sand-all view of the Parisian chap­ter of the Amer­i­can ac­tivist group ACT UP (AIDS Coali­tion to Un­leash Power) in the ’90s. The po­tency of this bru­tally frank drama will hope­fully rein­spire con­cern or, at least, ap­pre­ci­a­tion for how far things have come with the on­go­ing epi­demic—and where they still have to go.

Fu­elling the film’s nar­ra­tive fire are the de­bates that break out at ACT UP’S weekly strat­egy-plan­ning ses­sions, as mem­bers seek to tackle cor­po­rate and po­lit­i­cal in­dif­fer­ence to­ward their health con­di­tions. It’s here that ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences ignite and ra­di­ate out­ward into their cam­paigns and re­la­tion­ships. Should they be peace­ful pro­test­ers, fake-blood-splat­ter­ing ex­trem­ists, or pom-pom–wield­ing cheer­lead­ers?

Amid a solid cast, Ar­gen­tine ac­tor Nauel Pérez Bis­ca­yart steals his scenes as the Hiv–pos­i­tive fire­cracker Sean, with his dy­namic os­cil­la­tion from mo­tor-mouth rage to naked de­spon­dency. It’s of­ten his vis­ceral ur­gency that frac­tures the group’s di­rec­tion.

The ten­der re­la­tion­ship that de­vel­ops be­tween Sean and ini­tially re­served, Hiv–neg­a­tive new­comer Nathan (Ar­naud Valois) com­pli­cates mat­ters for them, but pro­vides view­ers with an im­por­tant phys­i­cal and erotic coun­ter­point to the ver­bal con­flicts and rad­i­cal ac­tivism—not to men­tion es­tab­lish­ing an emo­tional sub­stra­tum for what is in­evitable. Spon­ta­neous el­e­ments add to the film’s live­li­ness, while writer-direc­tor Robin Campillo’s un­sen­ti­men­tal ap­proach height­ens the over­all im­pact of the high stakes and heart­breaks dur­ing a pe­riod when si­lence = mort.

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