A ribbon runs through it
Two films take drastically different approaches to the Aids epidemic
In the new French drama directed by Robin Campillo, 120 Beats Per Minute, seen above right, two young men fall in love, and the egg timer is turned. Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) has HIV, and Nathan (Arnaud Valois) does not, and as this is the Nineties, when treatment for HIV/Aids was still negligible, they know that their relationship can be but a brief one. The two men meet at a gathering of the Paris branch of Act Up, a direct action organisation that was set up in the Eighties to force awareness of the HIV/Aids epidemic both among the drugs companies and governments and also the groups most at risk. The film follows Sean and Nathan’s developing love affair, but also the actions of the group, which grow increasingly desperate and strained as their collective time starts to run out. It’s a slow, sensual film that shows two people whose roles in life come to be flattened to single dimensions — patient, carer — by the terrible disease.
Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion and Disco, seen above left, is a new documentary by James Crump, but it’s not ostensibly about Aids. It is a portrait of a man and also of an era. Lopez was a Puerto Rican-American fashion illustrator whose dynamic, sexy drawings brought new verve to Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, while his dynamic, sexy personality sent the men and ladies — including Karl Lagerfeld, Jerry Hall, Grace Jones — crazy with desire and envy. (“I had a wild crush on Antonio,” admits actress Jessica Lange. “Didn’t everyone?”) Lopez was by all accounts the toast of New York in the late Sixties and Paris in the early Seventies, and the fashion elite fall over themselves to sing his praises in the movie, from Vogue’s Grace Coddington to the late The New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham. But all this hagiography points towards a tragic ending: even though it comes with only five minutes to go, Aids is in the shadows all along. —
120 Beats Per Minute, and Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion and Disco are both out in cinemas on 6 April