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Digital Subscriptions > Attitude > 295 > FRENCH REVOLUTION

FRENCH REVOLUTION

NEARLY A YEAR SINCE IT DAZZLED AUDIENCES AT CANNES, FRENCH AIDS DRAMA 120 BEATS PER MINUTE IS FINALLY GETTING A UK RELEASE. ADAM DUXBURY TALKS TO THE FILM’S DIRECTOR AND TWO OF THE LEADING ACTORS TO LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF THE RADICAL ORGANISATION THAT INSPIRED THE FILM
UNSILENT KNIGHT: Sean’s determined to make a noise about the Aids crisis
CÉLINE NIESZAWER

120 BPM

ACTING UP: the stars of the hard-hitting Aids drama, Arnaud Valois, left, and Nahuel Pérez Biscayart
SAD MEMORIES: Robin Campillo
STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY: MARKUS BIDAUX

The Aids epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s has been the driving force behind plenty of wonderful but tragic films, from Philadelphia and An Early Frost to Dallas Buyers Club and The Normal Heart. Now, Moroccan-born director Robin Campillo’s brilliant 120 Battements Par Minute adds a fresh sense of urgency and elegy to a set of films covering one of the darkest chapters of LGBT+ history.

The film tells the story of the French wing of ferocious advocacy group ACT UP, as members fight for their lives against the apathy of their government and the greed and bureaucracy of pharmaceutical companies.

When I travel to Paris to meet the film’s two lead actors, Arnaud Valois, who plays Nathan, and Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, who plays Sean, and later talk to director and screenwriter Robin over the phone, one word that we keep coming back to is “authenticity”.

The drama weaves a fictional story but is based so heavily on true events and drenched in such unflinching accuracy that it often feels as if you’re watching a documentary.

From the way the huge ensemble cast click their fingers at their regular meetings (applause is too noisy and interrupts proceedings), down to the exact recipe for fake blood, mixed by the bathful and splashed around the offices of callous corporations, all this authenticity is possible thanks to the reallife experiences of Robin himself. “I didn’t go through documents to do this film, I went through my memories,” he tells me.

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Double cover special! RICKY MARTIN + KYLIE. PLUS: The stars of BPM - the gay film everyone’s talking about, Ben Whishaw’s new BBC drama, and how an LGBT rehab clinic is fighting addiction