BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017) Poster

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9/10
Highly Recommended - One of the best films of the year
TrevorJD16 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
TThis is one of the best films of the year. 120 Beats Per Minute dramatises a dramatic few (early) years of ACT UP Paris, a direct action AIDS advocacy group. The film opens by initially presenting many different participants in meetings and demonstrations to give an understanding of the diversity of the people affected by AIDS and the group itself. It then hones in on two main protagonists – Sean and Nathan. Sean is HIV positive yet starting to develop AIDS. His fiercely political and personal fight against AIDS, ignorance, fear and the lack of interest from Government, pharmaceutical companies and the general public to their personal plight is heightened by the growing number of deaths decimating the gay community around him and the little time he may have to live. Nathan is a new member to ACT UP, HIV negative, yet quickly learning about HIV, AIDS, drug interactions, scientific analysis, and the political and social landscape of AIDS. He eventually falls in love with Sean, and will eventually have to take care of him much earlier than expected. Both men are in their early 20's when we meet them and this is probably the most heartbreaking and devastating aspect of the film and its story- that this disease claimed so many young lives within a society that for the most part did not care about their plight and stigmatised them because they were gay, had AIDS, and / or did not like their sexual practices. The film follows ACT UP meetings, protest rallys and demonstrations (which are both shocking and humorously presented); alongside Sean and Nathan's growing relationship. One scene in particular I will never forget - when they gate crash a class at a high school to inform the students about safe sex, as nobody was informing them because of the sexual nature, and the camera keeps on returning to one young student mesmerised by the groups actions; showing how they did have an impact through their presence. All the performances are beautifully rendered, and while the running time may seem long it is understandable when seen in context with the emotionally powerful last quarter of the film. This film was an experience that haunted me for days afterward. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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8/10
Sobering look at the AIDS epidemic
paul-allaer7 September 2017
"BPM" (2017 release from France; 140 min.; original title "120 battements par minute" or "120 beats per minute") brings the story of a group of activists in Paris, France who are trying to raise awareness as to the deadly epidemic going through the gay community in the early 90s. As the movie opens, the Paris branch of ACT UP is welcoming 4 new members to its ranks. We witness the meeting where there is strong debate as to what action to take. Along the way, the movie focuses on one particular guy, Sean, as he struggles, health and otherwise. To tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the latest movie of French director Robin Campillo, who previously gave us the excellent "Eastern Boys". Here he goes a very different direction, looking back at the dark days when AIDS was raging and little or certainly not enough was done by the government (with multiple stabs at then-president Mitterand) and the pharmaceutical industry. One of the strengths of the movie is that Campillo on multiple occasions lets the scenes play out without hurrying. There is little or no music to speak off in the movie, and again that only results in the film being ever more impactful (the last 40 min. pack an emotional wallop). Even though the Sean character is central, the movie comes across as an ensemble piece, with lots of stellar performances. Last but certainly not least, when watching this, I couldn't help but think back to that other AIDS movie from 2 decades ago, the Tom Hanks-starring "Philadelphia", in the "Hollywood version" of what AIDS was about. "BPM" easily blows "Philadelphia" out of the water. Bottom line: regardless of how you personally feel about the AIDS epidemic in the early 90s, "BPM" brings a sobering look and is nothing short of a masterful movie.

"BPM" premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where it was met with immediate critical acclaim (winning, among others, the "Grand Prix" award--in essence the silver medal as compared to the "Palm d'Or" gold medal). I happen to catch this movie during a recent family visit in Belgium. The early evening screening where I saw this at in Antwerp, Belgium, was attended very nicely, somewhat to my surprise. I would think this will eventually make it to US theaters, although given the nature of the film, this certainly cannot be taken for granted. If you have a chance to check it out, I'd encourage you to do so.
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Intelligent and brilliantly unsentimental, but loses its way a little
rick_79 October 2017
An intelligent yet visceral film about the gay community in '80s Paris, which starts brilliantly – focusing on the protests and meetings of Act Up, a group of guerrilla AIDS activists – before turning into a film about a man dying of the illness.

No matter how compassionately, credibly and intimately it does that, segueing from a film about ideas to one about the individual, contrasting the character's dynamism and beauty with his pain- ravaged impotence, and showing the body – not the city – as the battleground, it's ground we've covered countless times before, and (at the risk of sounding awful) it made the movie increasingly tedious.

At its best, this confrontational, unsentimental but humanistic film has unexpected echoes of Melville's Army in the Shadows, which looked at action, division and necessity within the French Resistance, and I understand why it included so many sequences of illness and sex, but those elements don't seem as interesting as the story it started to tell. When it returns to it in those final moments, loaded with the suffering and sadness of what's gone before, the results are admittedly astounding.

Nahuel Pérez Biscayart is absolutely terrific as Sean, a founding member, Mesut Őzil-alike and all-round complex human being, first introduced to us justifying the fact that he and his mates have handcuffed a government official to a post during his team's PowerPoint presentation.
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Important and worthwhile
Red_Identity14 February 2018
I feel like there have been many films with a similar premise to this, but this one really stands out in its execution. It manages to be both an intense, sensitive character study and a grander film about the scope of a very important political movement. The direction is really fantastic, and while I think the film is longer than it should be, the performances really make the whole thing worth it. They are fantastic.
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8/10
Flawed, but worth it
robfwalter23 March 2018
This movie is not perfect, but its flaws are outshone by its facets. The most sparkling among those is Arnaud Valois, who is smoking hot as Nathan, one of the ACT UP campaigners who this film follows. Good acting, a warm heart and a realism that is hard to find in big idea movies are also highlights of this film. Yes, an awful lot of it takes place in meetings in a lecture theatre, but these scenes actually had my heart racing, so true were they to the reality of activist politics - trying to decide if you should speak up or let a point pass, understanding both sides of an argument but knowing that the purpose of a meeting is to make a choice, hating someone's ideology but trying to maintain a working relationship with them. In this way, the movie finds its relevance to today. If politics is to be taken back from careerists and corporations to instead deal with real problems such as climate change and growing income and wealth inequality, it will require everyday people to take their cue from 120 Battements Par Minute and turn up to meetings, argue points of order and collectively decide how to act.

The two main shortcomings of the film are its earnestness and its length. Even just cutting fifteen minutes from it could have made the film easier to take, and there is probably half an hour that could have gone. In some ways it's stuck trying to tell a Hollywood story at a European pace, and as a consequence it does drag at times.

I was prepared for the earnestness, as I had seen the previews, but there are still a few times when it felt more like instruction than entertainment. However, there are also moments of levity and it's worth giving up an extra half hour of your time to see a film that is as profound, important and relevant as this one.
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Bracing fly on the wall look at the AIDS crisis in 90s France
gortx5 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
ACT UP was an activist group that sprung up in the New York City AIDS community. BPM is a bracing energetic look at its sister group in Paris in the 90s. To it's credit, BPM Director Robin Campillo and writer Philippe Mangeneot don't shy away from how controversial the organization was in general society as well as with other AIDS activist groups, and indeed, within the ACT UP itself. This isn't mere hagiography, but a living breathing testament to the era.

Much of the movie plays as a fly on the wall look at the issues and conflicts both outside and inside the group and its members. Campillo enlivens some of the dry technical talk with sporadic montage outbursts. But, they aren't just mere scene breaks, but, function as a way of showing these are dynamic three-dimensional people - not just "victims".

About midway, there's a long sex scene that, while intensely intimate, also brilliantly weaves in many of the movie's themes. The scene is between on of ACT UP Paris' co-founders Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) and a newer member Nathan (Arnaud Valois). From that point on the movie shifts from a more general look at the group to focus more on Sean and his declining health. It's a risky structural move, and not one that is entirely successful. While it is no doubt important to personalize the crisis on a personal level, it unbalances the whole a bit. It's also more than a little protracted, and feels rhythmically out of place with the better paced rest of the piece. It does lead to one particularly vivid final act of demonstration among the other members of ACT UP Paris.

BPM is one of the best movies on the AIDS crisis, joining another excellent French film, SAVAGE NIGHTS (1992) on that list. It's difficult, it's sometimes hard to watch, but, it's refreshingly alive unlike all too many films these days.
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8/10
The Horror of AIDS
GonzoRoll20 February 2018
First premiered at Cannes where it won a Grand Prix, it's an impotant story of AIDS epidemic throughout the 90s in Paris and the actions taken by ACT UP organization founded to fight the epidemics.

This film does a great job at showing the activism at its thriving and not so thriving stages and introducing us to the stories of people until, at some point, a romance takes place while movie doesn't loose its quality and starts balancing two narratives.

Great casting, directing, sound choices. I will be happy to see two main actors in many new films waiting to see the light of day. They are proven talented and capable of taking demanding roles like ones showed here.

I noticed some unusual and smart ways of using sex scenes to deepen the background of the story, the story of one, also the one of the many.

Techo music was the music of the epidemic, 120 beats per minute, but at some point, heartbeat dismiss the techno and takes over, while the blood river flows though the city of Paris.
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7/10
The love story outshines the activist story
proud_luddite7 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
N Paris in the 1990s, a group of AIDS activists (the Paris chapter of ACT UP) plans regular meetings to set up demonstrations and protests - mainly against drug companies. Two members of the group become involved in a romance: Sean (Nahual Perez Biscayart), a long-time activist who is HIV-positive; and Nathan (Arnaud Valois), an activist newcomer who is HIV-negative.

"BPM" lacks a full historical context as to why ACT UP is so angry against the drug companies among other institutions and individuals. While the urgency is understandable for those living with AIDS, there is no perspective given to drug companies on why they and their representatives are so despised. They (of the drug companies) are given too little exposure for the viewer to understand their perspective. Perhaps a scenario of annoying bureaucracy would have been helpful. During that tragic time period, there was a lot of indifference, denial, and prejudice about AIDS. This is not reflected well enough in the film. Instead, the drug company reps look innocent while some of the ACT UP activists come off as violent and harsh. This should not have been the case.

But the movie truly shines in the relationship between Sean and Nathan. Both actors do a great job especially Perez Biscayart who shows a strong range as Sean's physical condition gradually deteriorates. The film also excels in a particularly moving death scene. It is very realistic as those grieving share a collective silence and awkwardness among each other. This scene easily reminds viewers of the various losses in our own pasts.

Despite the film's flaws, its assets make it a touching experience.
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10/10
Part of 2017's Trifecta of Great Queer Cinema!
drtodds11 February 2018
"BPM (Beats Per Minute)" (France 2017) With this film I have finally completed watching the Trifecta of Great Queer Cinema of 2017! Set in the early 1990's, this is the story of ACT UP -- Paris, a rebel activist group composed of those infected with HIV/AIDS and their allies. Their mission: to educate the public on HIV/AIDS & safe sex practices; to change the public perception and dialogue of the epidemic; and to pressure politicians and pharmaceutical companies to take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS. At times the film (clocking in at nearly 2 & 1/2 hours) drags a bit...especially when delving into some of the medical/scientific specifics of HIV or the laborious in-house debates at ACT UP's weekly meetings. But, the end result is a powerful, dark, and heavy testimony to the importance of political activism....and the struggles many in our community faced during the early days of the AIDS Era. Intermixed are themes of friendship, the power of community, and seeking love in the face of fear. This film is not as easy to watch at "Call Me By Your Name" or "God's Own Country" but certainly worth the added effort! [5/5]
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9/10
outstanding !
sebastienpipo22 August 2017
(120) Beats per minute is a great french movie which deals with the AIDS epidemic, set in France in 90s. A must-see film. I think probably one of the best movie of the year. Awards : "Grand prix" and Queer palm of Cannes film festival 2017. So, talk about it with your (girs/boy)friend(s),parents and even pets. Enjoy this movie ; )
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6/10
120 Blows
EnoVarma20 March 2018
120 BPM takes us convincingly into the world of Parisien HIV activists in the early 1990's. The people feel authentic, so does their everyday life with the deadly disease and the way they talk about it. The many sessions of ACT UP PARIS are vibrant and makes an outsider understand the many sides of this particular battle.

But where was this movie 20 years ago when it was really needed? Or even ten years ago? And why is it half an hour longer than it needs to be? Even though the movie is intelligent and the cast is excellent, it really overstays its welcome. In a roundabout way, this is highlighted by the fact that this very talky movie is at its best when there is no dialogue. Images of raves and lights and dust are beautiful and more cinematic than the rest of it all.

120 BPM is an easy movie to recommend for its ideas, but as a piece of cinema, I don't understand its critiqueless reception. This movie about desire (for life, for sex, for justice, for attention) leaves a lot to be desired.
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8/10
A film that will probably stay on your mind for a long time
Horst_In_Translation13 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"120 battements par minute" or "120 Beats Per Minute" or "BPM (Beats Per Minute)" is a new French 2017 movie that runs for a massive 2 hours and 20 minutes. This one was written and directed by Moroccan filmmaker Robin Campillo and it may be his biggest success so far looking at the movie's awards recognition. It is also France's official Oscar submission and we will see how far it gets there. The subject sure deserves to make an impact as this is about the group ACT UP in France over 2 decades ago who were fighting for a better life for H.I.V. patients at that time and opposing those standing in its way like political institutions struggling to inform students properly on the subject of sex education or medical companies most of all, who put their financial interest over those suffering from this horrible illness. I personally think that this is a subject that really deserves the attention and also one that has not got it yet to the extent it should. Normally you find H.I.V. plots and references only in side stories in films. It's good this one was made. It is important. The cast includes mostly up-and-coming young actors that I as a German audience member must say I did not know before watching this one. Maybe Frenchies will know them. The one exception here would be Adele Haenel, who also probably gave my favorite female performance. As for the males, I quite liked Reinartz and of course Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, who eventually probably turns into the movie's MVP, something I did not expect early on. Admittedly, he also has great material, but he also made the most of it.

Impressively, the film never really drags despite running for almost 150 minutes, at least not to me. I personally enjoyed the moments involving the group (also the introduction to the group early on during which the camera basically treats us like an actually new member, very well done) more than those focusing on the members' individual lives, like especially the love relationship between the new member and old member, but this also got a lot more interesting the longer it went when things take a turn for the worse sadly. And eventually, there is this coming together between the group element and the individual member element and I quite liked that too. The most powerful moment was probably the graveyard reenactment with the crosses, I'm sure ou know what I mean, that was truly touching. Another thing I liked was that they did not show the group as a mass of everybody thinking the same and agreeing on everything with each other. Discussion and conflict were vital in making the right decisions and moving closer to finding common goals and reaching them. Watching this show will in fact make you want to be a part of this movement and wants you to join the group in one way or the other as they all seemed friends sticking together closely, even if their opinions may differ frequently. As for the very ending, we got the evidence that a life may have been lost, but the movement only gets stronger and everybody sticks even closer together with each other. Plus the way they went from loud to completely silent the moment the credits roll in was a smart decision as the film offers really a lot to think about.

Honestly, I must say I am not too sure if the Oscars will go for this one here due to the subject and running time, but I will cheer for them for sure and would be happy to see them nominated. The win is a long shot though with Sweden perhaps being in the best spot at this point. But at least 120 BPM did not go comnpletely overlooked this season. It is one of the best 10, maybe even 5, films I have seen all year and I highly recommend checking it out. Combining the general movement with individual stories may certainly have been a good decision here and the execution is close to flawless also in terms of the technical production values. These also added to this being an unapologetically bold, radical movie full of energy, full of emotion and full of grief. But most of all full of progress about a group that shaped the way for generations to come. H.I.V. may not be one of the most controversial topics in the western world these days, but we should not take that for granted and thank those who were blazing the trail. So get a good set of subtitles (unless you are fluent in French) and watch this one on the next occasion you get. Highly highly recommended, it's rare to see a touching political movie these days, but this really works so well from start to finish in that department that you really don't want to miss out. No excuses. See it.
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8/10
Powerful, tragic film but with a pay off
Smallclone1008 June 2018
Tragic account of the early 90s AIDS epidemic, and the actions of a group of activists in Paris. It's a very dialogue heavy film but also intertwines a tender love story. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart is absolutely astounding as 'Sean'. And the acting is so hugely impressive across the board, it almost feels like the viewer is attending the activists weekly meetings at times. A powerful film.
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6/10
Doesn't Say Anything New About the AIDS Crisis
evanston_dad15 August 2018
If "BPM" had been made in, say, the early 1990s, it would have been an urgent clarion call hard to ignore. But in 2018 one looks to movies about the AIDS epidemic to tell us some things we don't already know, and this film feels strangely anachronistic.

It's not like I'm naive enough to believe that everything about the disease and those who suffer from it is hunky dory now. But medical and cultural progress has come a long way since AIDS first emerged on the grim horizon, and this film feels like a public service message released too late to do any good. I would have been satisfied with a film chronicling the early days of the AIDS activist movement, which this movie promises to be in its opening scenes. But what I didn't need was a prolonged film about one young man dying slowly from the disease. Do I need another movie convincing me that AIDS is a horrible thing to die from?

There was a lot of head scratching when the Academy Award nominations for 2017 were announced and "BPM" wasn't on the list for Best Foreign Language Film. That head scratching was what led me to see it. Now that I have, I don't think the Academy made a misstep in overlooking it.

Grade: B
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7/10
Ashes are Edible
thirtyfivestories22 November 2017
A story with a particular historical moment in mind has been rendered timeless. A random first generation Gameboy generates a temporal whiplash, as the film's events are portrayed as contemporary catastrophes. Silence equates to death, and the team meeting in a college lecture hall has dwindling numbers, yet deafening shouts.

A prejudicial plague scorches France, bringing an already tight-knit community into a blood brotherhood. ACT UP is a guerrilla group full of eventual corpses. The HIV epidemic has threatened their love and survival. Pharmaceutical companies have cubical indifference as antidotes are sluggishly distributed by financial logistics.

As the non-violent vigilantes face just as many internal conflicts as press-generated woes, their operations grow in scale and creativity. Their weekly conferences have an intentional cadence complete with respectful snaps, hisses, and hand signals designed to facilitate the mutual understanding that has gone extinct beyond the university walls.

Sean is one of he founding members, and has some of the worst test results. He is the loudest in any given demonstration, and celebrates harder than all his peers. ACT UP is Sean's final lifeline, and his involvement resounds as a funeral dirge among a thunderous parade.

Campillo has delivered another dialogue driven barrage of human desperation. The sprinkling of establishing shots offer a reprieve from the claustrophobic disputes between the positives and the businessmen impartial to death. An important angle to an understated tragedy that shaped legislation in the most vital ways.
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9/10
Provocative and Timely
danoboy221 March 2018
This film remains timely despite it's historical perspective of French Protesting to advance HIV research and viable medical treatment. Funding is always precarious as politics, stereotypes and access to prevention remains limited almost 40 years later. Definitely a film to see.
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9/10
Prevention of AIDS movement with typically French scenes
jeannefrancoise16 April 2018
Dear movie freaks, yesterday I went to film festival and I choose to watch this movie because of a reason: I already brainwash by Hollywood, so I want to watch other movie. This one is coming from France. As far as I know about French movies, they are sarcastic, well-presented, full of sex scenes, and shows the reality or humanity of marginalized people, and sometimes have clear ending. This movie 120 BPM has contributed to value up French movies this year and I do not so surprised if this movie was appreciated in Festival de Cannes. 120 BPM is a movie about the movement to prevent AIDS in the early 1980s in France, where at that time condoms were uncommon, despite of free-sex society. The scenes, cinematography, and main story about this movie is quite simple, but sharp in giving meaning, so that in each take, they have grammar of the scene and I could imagine they had shooting in many angles, as this movie could represent AIDS prevention in every angle of the story. Just like other French movies, this movie has sex scenes and hard language, so that if there are teenagers with you, I suggest you to explain more. The Director here also gives some real footages of the movement, so audience could have mental image of what was going on at that time, especially from the sad scenes, audience will remember the whole story as the critic for French government at that time (the President was Francois Mitterand, from French Socialist Party). Quite different from Brave Heart, this movie also wanted to say the AIDS prevention movement is for everyone, not for leftist people and I think this clear idea that had been founded the acting of all actors of this movie, deserve a high acclaim from many film festivals, including film festivals in Indonesia, my hometown. Thank you for 100% Manusia, an Indonesian NGO, who deliver this movie to our eyes.
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3/10
Lengthy French aids drama
rubenm28 August 2017
'120 Battements par minute' is about the protest movement Act Up Paris, which tried to put aids on the map as a major problem. The film is set about thirty years ago, when there was no efficient treatment yet against aids. There is at least one other film about this era and about this theme: 'Dallas Buyers Club'. Both films show how desperate aids patients were to get their hands on promising new medication. Both films show what the disease can do to a human being. Both films show the ignorance and prejudice of that period.

The American film is a clever, well-made and well-written film in which the development of the lead character is central. But the French movie is slow-moving, lacks any suspense and doesn't seem to have any central focal point.

It starts by showing, in excruciating length, the weekly meetings of the Act Up members, who more often than not embark on endless discussions about something as mundane as the slogan for a campaign poster. They also try to disturb official meetings, and invade a pharmaceutical company which refuses to release the test results of a certain kind of drug.

This last story element offers some dramatic possibilities, but the film makers don't elaborate on it. This becomes clear when, in one scene, the managers of the pharmaceutical company are invited to explain their policy to the Act Up members. Instead of showing this exchange of differing opinions, and thus creating some much-needed dramatic development, the story moves away from the pharmaceutical company to the experiences of one individual Act Up member. Suddenly, he becomes the protagonist, and we see him struggling with the disease.

Throughout the whole film, I kept on thinking: what's the point? Where is this story heading? Why is the first half of the film about a group of people fighting for a cause, and the second half about one individual fighting against a disease? The problem is also that the urgency is gone. Most of the things Act Up is angry about, are solved now. Very few people in the western world die of aids anymore, and everyone is aware of what the risk factors are. The makers of 'Dallas Buyers Club' knew this. That film was not so much about aids, it was about how one particular man handled aids. In '120 Battements par minute', the disease is still very much the lead character.
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3/10
Politics in film awards ?
bbriles14 January 2018
Repetitive. Did not go anywhere. Characters are "pretty", but mundane. Sensationalism, i.e lots of sex. Writing is fair at best. Need to cut about 40 minutes out of the movie. Do we really need to go through every step of dressing a dead man. Obviously politics in "film awards".
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2/10
Does not deserve the grand prix
kashmirlayla8 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Disappointing (though not surprising) that this propaganda film won the Grand Prix at Cannes - as well as the 'Queer Palme' (the fact that such an award exists... no comment...). I went in hoping for the best, hoping for something better than a message film. The dynamics of the militant group Act Up were initially, marginally engaging, but halfway through the film changes gears, focusing on one activist who ends up dying. The emotional payoff is, alas, not even close to worth the two and a half hour running time - I didn't care enough about the character who ended up dying, and the activist thing didn't really go anywhere. None of the characters were very appealing. The powers that be (pharmaceutical executives and high school teachers) were painted as hard-hearted cold fish villains. Suffice to say - about an hour and a half in I'm literally hoping the main character will die already so the film will end... I contemplated leaving early.

The critic from Le Monde baffling claimed that the film whitewashes sexual minorities; on the contrary, be warned: there is graphic gay sex in the film, which I really could have done without.
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3/10
yawn
j2386 June 2018
Lost me when they brought their campaign to young straight people, some of the people at the lowest risk for HIV.
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6/10
Slow burner
120 BPM. A film set in the 90s about a group of AIDS activists (most of whom were HIV+) who all want justice and proper healthcare for the afflicted, which they argue was deliberately being witheld for political and financial motivation. However, they don't agree on how they should vent their protestations.

With the above synopsis, this sounds right up my street and I so wanted to love this film. But for me it took too long to get going.... It wasn't helped that early in the film much of the (very wordy) dialogue was white subtitles on a clear backdrop, making it very difficult to read (and the French do seem to talk fast)...

An hour in and the film still hadn't grabbed me - despite, not because of, the subject matter. However, as Sean condition worsens and you see the impact on the ones who love him, the film eventually drew me in and I became emotially involved.

I'm pleased I watched it, and I'm glad I'm in the minority as most others seem to have enjoyed the film more than me, but there was something missing for me. All the raw ingredients were right (the acting, the documentary style, the music, the campaign) but the final product was a little tedious at times. 6 out of ten
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5/10
Sans plus
oksanaoksa31 December 2018
Un film vrai mais qui ne fait cependant pas partie de mes favoris
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8/10
BPM is an intrepid critique that covers warts and all of a pyrrhic fight in its darkest years
lasttimeisaw5 August 2018
Drawing on his and his co-writer Philippe Mangeot's personal experiences, French queer filmmaker Robin Campillo's third feature BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE) vehemently re-enacts the activism of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) group's Paris branch in the early 90s during the hiking AIDS pandemic.

As a César awards' BEST FILM recipient, BPM emanates immersive intimacy that foremost registers the immediacy of status quo, whether it is their hands-on non-violent protests on various occasions aiming at the government's inaction and apathy, the pharmaceutical corporate's sloth and cupidity in the form of immoral hunger marketing, or, predominantly, during their convocations where members contend, dispute and express their ideas and methods in a diplomatic fashion, met with either approving finger-snapping or plain hissing. Campillo's method is unpretentiously engaging with his fly-on-the-wall lens, allots munificent time to studiously record the sparks-flying meetings and tries to reach as many individual's voices as possible, even sometimes it feels erring on the side of repetition because their situation is pretty dire while their adversity has no conscience to repent. Moreover, Campillo doesn't whitewash the internecine ill-will that inherently lives and breathes inside any sort of human congregation, best incarnated by the ambivalent relation between our protagonist Sean (Biscayart) and the group leader Thibault (Reinartz).

That tactile intimacy also flows in the veins of the central romance between Sean and Nathan (Valois), and it is the latter's novice perspective that serves as the guidance of leading audience into a terra incognita in the first place. Their interaction runs tellingly from full-on sexual congress that defies fear and embraces love, to their tête-à-têtes shedding lights on their respective past, until the later stage when Sean's vitality begins to be overtaken by the virus, where a sense of tacit understanding holds out during his last days (including one last lurid orgasm on his hospital bed).

The crunch to eventually put Sean out of misery which Nathan executes with superb efficiency on top of smoldered anguish, chimes in brilliantly with Campillo's clinically perceptive take on the concomitant aftermath of Sean's demise, repressed grief, wistful relief and an insidious dread that haunts the rest "pozs", a soul-eating hopelessness becomes a sign of the times for queer community.

On the less graver front, Campillo ascertains that mood is high in daylight Gay Pride marches and vibes are sensuous in fluorescent abandon on the dance floor, striking visual flourishes include a nightspot Tyndall effect being glisteningly transformed into a virulent aggression and a blood-soaked Seine imagined by a deteriorating Sean, as his silent last cri de coeur.

Performance-wise, Campillo marshals a cracking, preponderantly youthful cast that exudes passion and spontaneity, besides his usual vim-and-vigor, the Argentina-born Nahuel Pérez Biscayart is tasked with a grueling body-emaciation which he rounds off summa cum laude, a daunting transmogrification futher underlined by the diminished color in his bulging eyes; newcomer Arnaud Valois, counterbalances Biscayart with dignified aplomb and quietening restraint that immediately distinguishes him from rest of the stigmatized activists; both Antoine Reinartz and Adèle Haenel (who plays the avid lesbian activist Sophie), pull their backs into the heady contestation with zest and artistry, plus the former makes a good fist of showing the elusive complexity burdened by a leader figure.

Encompassing and melding the tripartite elements of queerness, politics and mortality, BPM is an intrepid critique that covers warts and all of a pyrrhic fight in its darkest years.
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