November 20, 2017 – This French film follows the activities of a group of Act Up activists in Paris in the mid-1990s. This movie looks a lot like a documentary, probably because writer-director Robin Campillo and co-screenwriter Philippe Mangeot drew upon their own experiences in this same time period as Act Up activists.
The activities of Act Up in the United States were chronicled in documentary films, notably the 2011 award-winning film “We Were Here” and “How to Survive a Plague” (2012). The characters in BPM are remarkably similar to those interviewed in those earlier documentaries. Act Up in France modeled itself after Act Up in the U.S. and they engaged in similar activities to raise awareness of their plight, the AIDS epidemic and to apply political pressure to governments and pharmaceutical companies.
This film revolves around the efforts of Act Up to speed the release of Protease inhibitors, a new kind of anti retroviral drug that would eventually dramatically cut the death rate among AIDS patients. Act Up protesters are shown invading the headquarters of a pharmaceutical company that not only refuses to release the drugs, but even to release information about the protease inhibitors.
The Act Up activists, many of whom are literally dying of AIDS, don't know if Protease inhibitors will save them, but they are ready to try anything to find out more about the drugs. During one presentation on the new drugs, the activists get a pretty good summary of the research, but they can't bring themselves to believe the drug's promise because their hopes have already been shattered so many times.
In addition to the meetings, discussions and actions of Act Up, the film also is about the love relationships between people in the group. Front and center is the love between Act Up founder Sean Dalmazo (played by Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) and fellow activist Nathan (Arnaud Valois). There are some really torrid sex scenes between these two, and others in the film. There are also moments of great tenderness between them. They also have some very frank discussions about their past romances and sexual encounters.
In addition to fighting the government (one government official is hit in the face with a balloon filled with fake blood) the activists also invade a school where they spread leaflets about safe sex and the need to use condoms. They face the same attitudes as the American activists did, taunts that they deserve to die for their sins, and denial that AIDS could possibly strike heterosexuals. School officials also resist the kind of sex education needed to fight the spread of AIDS. The activists also face resistance from drug users who are spreading the disease, and even from non-infected homosexuals.
The film has all the extremes of human emotion: Scenes of great joy, street celebrations, parties, dancing and sex, interspersed with heartbreak, hatred and arrests. Death lurks in the background in every scene of this movie, but the activists carry on. This film is compelling and the superb performances are part of the reason why. As it was said in “Jurassic Park,” life finds a way. This film rates a B+.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.