It may sometimes feel like we’re in the midst of liberalism’s dying days, but 2017 warrants a little celebration as a banner year for LGBTQ cinema. From Moonlight’s Oscar victory, to breakout arthouse hits like God’s Own Country, we’ve rarely seen so many quality queer films connecting with a receptive audience beyond the festival circuit. It seems fitting, then, that the year should come to a close with perhaps the definitive dramatisation of the AIDS crisis. 120 BPM sees writer-director Robin Campillo (see our interview here) draw on his own experiences in early-1990s Paris as a member of ACT UP, the radical protest group formed to combat the apathy and homophobia that hindered the fight against the epidemic. As you might expect from the co-writer of Laurent Cantet’s Palme d’Or-winning schoolroom drama The Class, it’s a dense, dialogue-driven, largely naturalistic affair, fixated on minutiae to a degree that some may find patience-testing. But whereas Hollywood efforts like Philadelphia and Dallas Buyers Club are compromised by their attempts to render HIV-related issues palatable to a straight audience, 120 BPM positively revels in its queerness. In place of the saintly, celibate AIDS patients we’re used to seeing on screen, Campillo presents a group of foulmouthed, libidinous activists who refuse to be subdued by illness. The result is a film that, whilst harrowing, is also funnier and sexier than its prestige trappings might suggest.
120 BPM | Directed by Robin Campillo (France 2017) with Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois. Starts November 30
Check our OV search engine for showtimes.