NYFF: BPM (Beats Per Minute)
Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 2:43PM

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.

Article originally appeared on The Film Experience (http://thefilmexperience.net/).
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