BPM (Beats Per Minute) is a touching and poignant drama that could just as easily play as a documentary.
Directed by Robin Campillo from a screenplay co-written with Philippe Mangeot, the film stars Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel, and Antoine Reinartz
Set in Paris, a group of Act Up-Paris activists have decided to take the fight to the streets. Nathan (Valois) is new to the group and his worldview is soon affected by the radical Sean Dalmazo (Biscayart). It’s tough watching Nathan falling in love with Sean, knowing that Sean’s very life is doomed to death from AIDS. Yet, he stays with him through the whole ordeal.
Both Campillo and Mangeot were involved with the organization in the 1990s, thus making this film such a personal project. It helps when filmmakers have the necessary experience to give a film that authentic feeling rather than making one in which they heavily research prior to writing the script. For example, this is an area where casting transgender talent for a transgender role will bring authenticity into a given project rather than having to coach a cisgender actor.
While largely inspired by their own lives, BPM is still a fictional film. Neverthus, it’s thematic material is just as important in the narrative it tells. In casting the film, Sarah Tepper and Leïla Fournier aimed to find openly gay actors to fill the diverse world of the militant organization. The meetings themselves are filmed with three cameras. Rather than shoot from different angles several different times, cinematographer Jeanne Lapoirie and Campillo set the scenes up to where the meeting can happen organically and flow better once edited.
It’s important to document the AIDS crisis on film. Aside from Philadelphia, talking about the disease outside of LGBTQ circles would have otherwise be seen as taboo in the 1980s. It wasn’t until NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991 that the conversation became mainstream for the pre-internet era. Now that enough time has passed, filmmakers are making the stories that they should have been making in the 1990s.
BPM joins a growing list of LGBTQ-themed films released in 2017, including Thelma, Princess Cyd, and the upcoming Call Me By Your Name. These films have such an importance to the conversation. It doesn’t matter what language the films are in, the biggest disappointment is that none of them are getting a wide release. Outside of personally knowing someone affected by AIDS, it’s television and movies that have to drive the conversation.
After playing the festival circuit, The Orchard opened BPM (Beats Per Minute) with a limited release on October 20, 2017. The film opens in Chicago today at the Music Box Theatre.