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Queers behaving rebelliously

OUT NOW! The film adaption 120 BPM of French queer activist group ACT UP delivers the almost definitive dramatisation of the AIDS crisis and revels in its queerness.

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

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