Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
Click here to listen to a brand new episode of Ink & Paint as Daniel discusses the groundbreaking classic 'One Hundred and One Dalmatians'!x
review, BPM, BPM, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel, Antoine Reinartz, Pascal Tantot, Robin Campillo, Drama film rating




By Chris Edwards
23rd February 2018

As the old saying (kind of) goes, it takes a village to fight a plague. Therein lies the thrust of Robin Campillo’s new film ‘BPM’, a thrillingly political, emotionally devastating, and invigoratingly queer portrayal of Parisian AIDS activists as they fight, fuck, love and die at the dawn of the 1990s. Taking the French arm of the New York-originating activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) as their focus, Campillo and co-screenwriter Phillipe Mangeot craft a bold, sprawling portrait of a community in a time of extreme crisis, forging an intimate epic on the personal made political and vice versa. Fully embracing the erotic and radical potential of queer love, the film delivers some of the most breathtakingly powerful sex scenes I’ve seen in a cinema in a very long time, nestled amongst urgent debates around the ethics of protest and the heartbreaking devastation of a decimated LGBTQI+ populace.

Campillo thrusts us into the group’s weekly meetings in an unremarkable lecture theatre somewhere in Paris. After some cannily delivered exposition thanks to an introduction to procedures for new members, we’re right in the thick of it. As Sophie (Adèle Haenel) recounts the ways in which a previously glimpsed protest was overtaken by a faction of more radical and unapologetically confrontational members, we’re thrown into the first of many heated debates, setting up the divisive question that every member of the group is wrestling with – how hard can you push when you’re fighting for your life? Amongst those newcomers is Nathan (Arnaud Valois), a handsome, HIV-negative gay man, who is soon drawn to the more vehemently militant “poz” Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, simply stunning in a virtuosic performance), one of the “back-row radicals” who took over the protest by roughly handcuffing a fake blood-drenched pharmaceutical rep.


Essentially, this is a new queer classic, a fantastically robust documentation of a time too often co-opted by straight filmmakers and po-faced prestige titles. Where others have gone for melodrama or cheap waterworks, here we’re given astute, textured and down-to-earth interactions between triumphantly non-heterosexual people. Campillo’s camera zooms in on this community to the exclusion of all others with purposefully claustrophobic effect, as the isolation of their movement and the solidarity it forges between them (“We don’t like each other, but we’re friends,” as one character says in an attempt at connection with a dying comrade) deepens and complicates every relationship. It’s all painted so assuredly and with such care – as is to be expected when both writers were a part of the very organisation they’re depicting, with Mangeot even serving as president for a time in the late 90s. It’s from this clear use of their own lived experiences that the film is also so damn funny, as the filmmakers don’t forget to let us in on the moments of joy and weaponised wit that see these characters through their darkest times. There’s even an early nod to the ridiculous canonisation of the “suffering gay” in the worst kinds of prestige AIDS dramas, as one character looks off into the distance and delivers a poetic monologue about how AIDS has opened his eyes to the beauty of the world – only to be unable to keep a straight face at the sheer ludicrousness of such a statement.

The meetings and the disputes they hold are thrillingly detailed, dense affairs. Rather than simplifying these complex debates down to hero-worshipping soundbites, Campillo and his co-editors allow the scenes to expand and breathe; feverishly capturing every argument lobbed with sublimely intricate editing that never calls attention to itself – until, of course, it does, as when they seamlessly transition between a night club of teeming masses and the microscopic views of the infected cells within them, in one of a series of breathtaking coups de cinéma. Speaking of which, the film’s true central set piece qualifies easily as one of the great scenes of the year, as the first time Nathan and Sean have sex morphs from an impressively frank and sensual depiction of the logistics and precautions of sex between two men (particularly when one of them is HIV-positive) into a visual treatise on queer histories as embodied, reverberating acts of intimacy and connection. It’s simple, it’s evocative, and it’s a jaw-dropping moment of sensuality and beauty, all tied to queer bodies. It’s one of many ways in which the film separates itself from films that are really just about gay people, clarifying its status as a truly queer work of art.

...a new queer classic, a fantastically robust documentation of a time too often co-opted by straight filmmakers and po-faced prestige titles. Where others have gone for melodrama or cheap waterworks, here we’re given astute, textured and down-to-earth interactions between triumphantly non-heterosexual people.

And this is without even getting to the performances, each of which is strong and engaged, even when the script asks for briefly sketched yet fully realised characters. All of the ensemble deliver with aplomb, particularly Valois as the film’s honest, open-hearted centre, but especially Pérez Biscayart, who grabs the film by the throat from his first entrance and owns every moment he’s on screen. It’s a righteously enraged performance, portraying an unapologetically femme and faggy homosexual man as strong and complex and wickedly intelligent, charting every moment of his physical decline and emotional turbulence with an impressive clarity of vision. Much like the film that barely contains him, it is an act of queer representation and illumination that comes at an incredibly appropriate time, as we get a hard-won opportunity to honour those who fought for change before us, and celebrate their humanity, their temerity, and their victories.

After all, it takes a village.

RELEASE DATE: 17/05/2018
RUN TIME: 2h 20m
CAST: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart
Arnaud Valois
Adèle Haenel
Antoine Reinartz
Pascal Tantot
DIRECTOR: Robin Campillo
PRODUCERS: Hugues Charbonneau
Marie-Ange Luciani
Looking for more Melbourne International Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
Pocahontas - 25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
TRENDINGPOCAHONTAS25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
Boss Level - Nostalgic action and quirky foes
TRENDINGBOSS LEVELNostalgic action and quirky foes
xXx: Return Of Xander Cage - The good, the bad and the ugly
TRENDINGxXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGEThe good, the bad and the ugly
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
About A Boy - All grown up 15 years on
TRENDINGABOUT A BOYAll grown up 15 years on
Alliance Française French Film Festival 2021 - Elevate your spirits
The Shepherd - A true story through an unflinching lens
TRENDINGTHE SHEPHERDA true story through an unflinching lens
A Call to Spy - The unknown stories of real-life heroes
TRENDINGA CALL TO SPYThe unknown stories of real-life heroes
The Glass Room - Stunning yet soulless
TRENDINGTHE GLASS ROOMStunning yet soulless
The Truffle Hunters - Joy and dedication in the dirt of Northern Italy
TRENDINGTHE TRUFFLE HUNTERSJoy and dedication in the dirt of Northern Italy
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
The Dark and the Wicked - 2020's scariest film
River's Edge - The kids aren't alright
TRENDINGRIVER'S EDGEThe kids aren't alright
Wet Woman in the Wind - A sexy struggle for conquest
TRENDINGWET WOMAN IN THE WINDA sexy struggle for conquest
25 Free-to-Watch Short Horror Films - The scariest shorts we uncovered online
TRENDING25 FREE-TO-WATCH SHORT HORROR FILMSThe scariest shorts we uncovered online
Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse - Fairly brainless
Waterloo - An epic recreation of the legendary battle
TRENDINGWATERLOOAn epic recreation of the legendary battle
Red Pill, Blue Pill - 10 films influenced by 'The Matrix' on its 20th anniversary
TRENDINGRED PILL, BLUE PILL10 films influenced by 'The Matrix' on its 20th anniversary
Malila: The Farewell Flower - Contemplating love and loss
Nymphomaniac - Lars, sex and cinema
© 2011 - 2021 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us!