Director: Robin Campillo, Writers: Robin Campillo, Philippe Mange, Cast principals : Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel.
Cast details : Nahuel Pérez Biscayart – Sean, Arnaud Valois – Nathan, Adèle Haenel – Sophie, Antoine Reinartz – Thibault, Félix Maritaud – Max, Ariel Borenstein – Jérémie, Aloïse Sauvage – Eva – Simon Bourgade – Luc, Médhi Touré – Germain, Simon Guélat – Markus, Coralie Russier – Muriel, Catherine Vinatier – Hélène, Théophile Ray – Marco, Saadia Bentaïeb Mère – Sean, Jean-François Auguste – Fabien.
Production Co: Les Films de Pierre, France 3 Cinéma.
France English Subtitled. 2hr 23mins. Rated 15.
1979 on dateline
When Aids came crashing in there were few prepared for its deadly tragic consequences. Amongst the alienating devastating effects for individuals a collective panic arose across the Western world. Aids is still around and is epidemic in Africa were trucks pull up to relieve their crosssway paths and prostitution is spreading disease in places were no treatment is readily accessible. If your heart beats let it beat at 120 BPM the Film seems to say. The life is short lived when Aids is encountered and the outside world is a mere external hospital wall away. For the middle classes of France and many European cities and for that matter towns and rural communities the Virus meant their liberté, égalité, fraternité, is truly turned upside down.
Out in the open
The film begins with the weekly assembly of the Act Up Group after a disastrous protest concerning the lack of government pharmaceutical and health assistance surrounding research and tackling the scourge of sexual intercourse. They interrupt a convention on Medicine, one where the release of drug results is withheld and they confront the speakers and one protester accidentally takes it too far and ballon bombs a spokesperson with fake blood. Horrific as it may seem that the transmission of Aids is frequently through blood products and contact with infected blood this is quite an outrage.
In a University lecture hall the meeting at length profiles the scale and extent of anxiety with a mainly young male audience. Women are to the fore also and take part with equal measure of purpose to Act Up. The fraternity is compulsive and the raucous determination resembles the ‘68 protests also seen on the campuses of Paris. Then the freedoms were fought for without the brinkmanship and set ideals and a framework I would say for the Socialist ‘Reality’ of workers rights we now see exposed in France today with the SNCF (railway) workers seeking protection of their rights. Like the brilliant film with Marion Coutillard of 2016 Two Days One Night, the solidarity is squeezed to the margins. This film has the quality of discernment and authoritive public action in the form of activism. Political activism has been a staple of France for decades and Macron is as a new broom trying to sweep that under the carpet instead of widening the structures of protection of people’s rights to a life without the perils of exploitation he cosies up to.
The disaster turns up the flame and it points up the calamitous path that they fear they might tread on. Victims are everywhere. Class boundaries are non existent as Aids and being HIV Positive is no respecter of gender or status. Tinder the gay app. is currently in trouble over its data breaches in allowing (allegedly) access to users data thought to be held private exchanged in relation to HIV status.
Before this film came Dallas Buyers Club also about the difficulty of obtaining treatment and was it a superb underrated piece which Matthew McConaghy excelled and created a guardian angel role in a motel on the outskirts.
The battlements (battements is Francais for beats) are drawn in this French activist movie though it’s pace is laboured and it is slow to produce a core force of nature in response to nature’s deliverance of a plaque. Initially the piece is off the group responses and tactics and instead of the exploration of positions in depth the focus turns to the plight of an individual.
I have seen photographs of protests into the eighties in the Netherlands, other places where sit down protests were still needed to highlight the failings of medical interventions. It is still a massive medically under resourced disease world problem. Apart from war the epidemic affects the largest percentage of world population than any other individual disease. See https://www.avert.org/global-hiv-and-aids-statistics
Disease in full spectrum
For the film the disease is visual and viscerally in the main frame. Attitudes of Doctors and Politicians are scarily – and we recognise the same double speak in the same areas today – platitudinous and patronising. We are looking back to the gross niavity of those times even though it was a high profile and deeply concerning time for all who engaged in sexual acts. Deeply felt ‘morality’ judgements came forward out of the decade of the sixties promiscuity yet the sixties were nothing compared to the STD proliferation of Victorian times with Capital Cities awash with prostitution in response to poverty and male power.
This is thrity years ago and to put this on the map is an achievement underestimated in its value and profiling of the ‘problem’ which was widely misunderstood and misrepresented – so as not to cause alarm. The unknowns caused the inevitable panic and regressive negative steps.
Of significance NOW
Clearly we live in different times but the proliferation of Aids is endemic still. What the film achieves is the stark reality this is highly contagious while treatments only happen on the basis it’s found, treatments are accessible and the debilitating consequences are shortened and halted in a clean environment. The film is of enormous educational value. For children born in that period and unaware of its widespread effects this is a fully dramatic depiction of the times and highlights the constant awareness needed in repaint o sexual intercourse. At the same time the internet (and Facebook now have 53/54 gender customised fluid sexual identities) has enabled faster discovery of the facts and help lines along with the possible outcomes. While this is not available in under developed countries and there is enormous ignorance and blatant blocking of the facts in areas where it’s associated with practices not considered active.
Would you believe some reviewers are citing the issues as ‘mostly solved’. A hideous ignorance of the presence which is while treatable as a disease does not eradicate the disease. People live daily with it and it consumes them on a daily basis and would see them depart this world were it nor for programmes of measured medical interventions which often go alongside other diseases. Nothing can stop a Multiple Sclerosis sufferer from acquiring it for instance or an amputee or disabled, sightless, or deaf impaired person from obtaining it.
The Morocco-born director Robin Campillo,(Palme d’or Winner The Class) and his co-writer Philippe Mange are following the personal tales of lesions and debilitating and the death inducing virus. This is not a celebration of the fight being fought but a coruscating immersion in the reality of the disease found in those times. I found it both a refreshing replaying of hidden detail alongside the harm which never found any particular mainstream avenue of explanation. No real previous ‘fictional’ dramatisation of events – there have been individual cases and films of Aids sufferers before – has cut into the blood as strongly as this it would seem. The choice and some reviewers are after an educational discussion on the whys and wherefores of the personalities in the powerful position of drug development, distribution, production, dispensing and complain their knowledge gap is unfilled. This is a deplorable route to take as the director is reliant on the factual ‘bacterial’ progress forward and back, control of the disease to be catalogued elsewhere. The progress of the medical breakthroughs, understanding the politics of dissuaded elements are interesting but not the purpose of the film.
Finding out the bleak sorrow and end of life stories is very upsetting in this account. The portrayal by the cast is connective and unbearably shocking at times. When the scene which stands out for many of the messenger as character is telling their story on the Metro and outside the Metro train there is a beautiful Paris contrasting with the enclosure of the train it is chokingly subversive and involving. The young entering inevitable death is shocking.
In the early passages where the group refrain from clapping. They click fingers instead to denote approval there is a developmental logic entering. Of difference. The group leader/organiser Thibault (Antoine Reinartz), is to interpret and direct the flow. As with civil rights there is a counter productive element who have to be persuaded to be less unproductively militant even violent. Like Civil Rights and throw French until recent times; the resurgence of the Le Pen monolithic selfish nationalist propensity, there is an element who may destroy the goal and objectives. Just for example as the IRA and it’s Loyalist counterparts (alliances within Government co-conspirators) brought down decades of death and destruction and and unachieved liberty of peace and rights. For this line a ‘choice’ of sub-lieutenant is a girl unfittingly. Sophie (Adèle Haenel), is deployed as anger central.
There is a cause of love centrally in the film. A Mesut Ozil (Arsenal F.C. & Germany) young lookalike, you might see the resemblance!
Nahuel Perez Biscayart and Arnaud Valois are Sean and Nathan,
The illusion of a world order is displayed in World Football leagues and with an alleged 1 billion audience for a Man City v Man Utd football game two Saturday’s ago the priorities of this world stilll are extraordinarily maladjusted as is the Arsenal Football team the adore mentioned multi-million earning Germam could testify to.
For the relationship it becomes matured before Seán reaches twenty. The openness of their relationship becomes immaerial and contrary to the norms found they are pioneers of this short lived freedom which is their adjustment and almost only measurable success.
The importance of this film is its multi layered excessive in truth telling and its very significant contribution for the youth of today to the examination of, learning of, that ‘commodified’ element of their lives, the sexualised part and the difficult primary function within their lives which is where the love found came with deadly consequences often. Blue Is the Warmest Colour, in 2013 is another young film of similar intensity. A French teen (Adèle Exarchopoulos) forms a deep emotional and sexual connection with an older art student (Léa Seydoux) she met in a lesbian bar.
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
There are plenty of curve balls thrown in this one, like the normal day to day jobs or lack of, the rallies converge which is never examined. The reason being the disease is classless and it is an undercurrent you are supposed to feel.
The biggest curveball of all is how is this not a centralised political and human concern of the highest proportions? How could it be very productive to take it fully prioritsedand perhaps be a redefining part of our essences in learning the basic human relation to sexual drivers? Everywhere there is dysfunction and everywhere a basic degradation is visited on the human form including the psyche with the occurrence of diseases only a measure of this dysfunction.
For a heart beating at 120 BPM there is still hope.
9 April 2018
The film is showing 06 April 2018 until 19 April 2018 at QFT Belfast
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