AIDS Film “120 Beats Per Minute” Stands Out at Cannes 

Robin Campillo’s “vital new gay classic” follows the Paris chapter of ACT UP in the early 1990s.

May 23, 2017

Directed by Robin Campillo, the film—originally 120 Battements Par , in French, but also simply BPM—follows the Paris chapter of the AIDS activist group ACT UP in the early 1990s. Vanity Fair reviews the movie as “deeply effective,” characterizing it as “half sober and surveying docudrama, half wrenching personal illness narrative” and labeling the film a “vital new gay classic.”

Of the film, IndieWire said that although the film “never quite takes off into the emotional intensity suggested by the material, it nevertheless arrives at a powerful raison d’être, with layers of its ecosystem slowly assembling until a fully defined revolt reveals itself. The finale is a masterstroke of editing.”

In its own review, The Hollywood Reporter says the film’s style is more contemplative than that of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart and that “Campillo has a finely tuned ear for the volatile currents of group discussion. He also has a knack for seamlessly incorporating sociopolitical context into a dramatic canvas—evident in early scenes here when succinct references reveal that even after a decade of heavy losses, 6,000 new cases per year of HIV/AIDS were still being registered in France in the early ’90s, double the number of the U.K. or Germany.”

The Hollywood Reporter also offers an interview with the director, in which he explains, “I actually lived through this time. I was an ACT UP militant in the ’90s.”