Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel, Antoine Reinartz, Félix Maritaud, Ariel Borenstein, Aloïse Sauvage, Simon Bourgade, Médhi Touré, Simon Guélat, Coralie Russier, Catherine Vinatier, Théophile Ray, Jérôme Clément-Wilz, Jean-François Auguste, Saadia Bentaieb
Written by: Robin Campillo, Philippe Mangeot
Directed by: Robin Campillo
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 142
Date: 10/20/2017

BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Turn the Beat Around

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The official Oscar submission from France, rather than Agnes Varda's Faces Places, Robin Campillo's BPM (Beats Per Minute) is a very long message movie about the struggle in the early 1990s to recognize HIV and AIDS as an actual crisis. It consists mainly of many young French people in a room arguing; several staged protests against cruel, heartless pharmaceutical companies, which refuse to distribute needed meds; and, occasionally, dancing. As the movie crawls into its second hour, it begins to focus on a couple. Sean (whose name I did not pick up until near the movie's end) is a small fellow with big, brown eyes who is very sick and grows sicker. He attracts the attention of a tall, handsome man, who then helps care for him until the end. (His name is Nathan... I had to look it up.) Other characters are practically anonymous. In short, the movie is so fully dedicated to arguments, slogans, and preaching that it almost totally fails to create anything on any kind of human level. (It focuses on AIDS itself, as a subject, rather than the people dealing with it.) The bedside, hospital stuff, which could have been moving, just seems clinical. Even the sex scenes are full of constant chatter, factoids about safety and spreading diseases. I've heard arguments that BPM manages to capture the feel of what it was like to be there, but if you weren't there, I'm afraid it's not very compelling.

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