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NYFF: BPM (Beats Per Minute)

by Jason Adams

The setting is a classroom; the conversations academic. Several cliques gather, piled high in the bleacher seating - they snap their approval and hiss their dis- while sending flirty glances and fully enunciated lip smacks to the cute boys a row or two over. BPM (Beats Per Minute) is in its own way a High School Movie - everyone is young and they go to dances and they go on field trips (to actual schools, even) and harangue their teachers.

Of course everyone is young because they're all dying young and they go to dances to forget they're all dying and their field trips are to splash blood on the walls of the pharmaceutical companies keeping them sick, so it's a different kind of High School Movie. Mean Girls it ain't. It's a High School Movie like the gas-mask party in Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides is a "party" - it's life filtered through a green fog of oblivion.

BPM tells the story of the ACT UP activists in Paris in the plague days of the early 1990s, when surviving was rebellion and dying was rebellion and being gay was synonymous with death - when we piled our still-breathing bodies in the street because the system was literally suffocating the life out of us; we needed the world to see, to look, to pay attention before we were pushed under the pavement and rolled over, bags of bone and ash open in the breeze.

That BPM manages to tell this story with so very much life - forms twisting into one another in the darkness of dance clubs and unmade beds; parading proudly, high kicks down the streets - is only appropriate; what did we have to fight back with but life? Oh we had anger, black-out cases of it, and we wielded it like billy clubs; and we had our brains, before the lesions ate them up anyway, and we learned what we had to to survive. And we had each other, arms linked, love. Perhaps that's the biggest distinction for BPM among High School Movies - sniping and in-fighting fall away for a shock of solidarity at the end of the world.

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Reader Comments (11)

LOVED BPM. That, CMBYM, Florida Project, Ghost Story are my fave movies this year thus far.

October 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

That's a most excellent list of movies, Joseph!

October 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Lovely review. Great movie. I doooo feel the movie drags at times (notably towards the final third) but it's a minor quibble when there's so much good in it. Can't remember the last movie that nailed activism like this, and made a political struggle genuinely feel so personal and intimate. I like how it starts board and big and narrows to the truly deeply intimate effects of the situation on the characters and their lives.

October 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve_Man

I really want to see this as I heard so many great things about it at Cannes?

October 10, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I just saw it this evening at the LFF. I liked it a lot. It has a large cast but it keeps all the characters in play very well. And for all the desperate stakes in the situation, it is a finely judged movie that mixes the political with the personal very affectingly. Beautifully acted too.

October 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

RPM's protagonist, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, who was Best Actor at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2014 for the also gay-themed All Yours (Je Suis à toi), was born and raised in Argentina and started his career here. He was most notably in The Aura with Ricardo Darín. I don't remember where he learned his perfect French, but he honors the quality of Argentine actors... witness Sofía Gala Castiglione, the latest San Sebastián Festival Best Actress for her turn in the film Alanis.

October 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Not a fan. Movie is like 20 years too late (and we still have to endure the dying gay person with AIDS, please). I could see this in 1997. Right now it's just unbearable.

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

cal -- people actually do still die from AIDS. Less commonly, thank god. But seems like a strange thing to hold against a period piece.

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Where would you campaign the actors in this film? Both leads? Both supporting? Or split
Nahuel Pérez Biscayart in lead and Arnaud Valois in supporting?

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

Joseph -- despite it being an ensemble film (i will sometimes say that all are supporting in such films) I do feel like the central lovers take the movie over so much in its second half that id' consider them both leads.

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

@Nathaniel R

I an sorry, I know it's a period piece, but how many movies with gay leads we all have seen that kills this lead in the end?

I thought gay movies were in a less tragic era, the Moonlight era, the Carol era, the Love is Strange era.

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

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