Robin Campillo’s exquisite “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” stands out as the most authentically queer film I’ve seen in a while. Campillo writes from his lived experience, turning a painful history into a moving and often joyous work of art that bears witness to the past while offering the current generation an insight into the queer history. The movie is about a group of young activists running ACT UP Paris, the AIDS advocacy group originally started by Larry Kramer in New York City in 1987. The film exists mainly within the framework of ACT UP: chaotic meetings and heated debates about everything from Pride slogans to pharmaceutical companies, nerve-wracking direct actions involving fake blood balloons and free condoms, and a tender love story.
When we meet Nathan (Arnaud Valois), he is a fresh recruit, thrown into his first meeting with a rushed introduction and not even a wink. Campillo achieves incredible immediacy by keeping the viewer over-stimulated. One of the greatest contradictions in the movie is how much fun the characters seem to be having a good time, flirting in the heat of the actions, laughing at the meetings, and going clubbing together after a friend dies. It’s this lived-in experience that sets Campillo’s film apart from others about the AIDS crisis, and even other gay films directed by well-meaning straight filmmakers.