Above The Line/ 120 BPM at Withy Public Hall

Tom Grieve, Cinema Editor

1 August 2021 Tickets from £4.69

Director Robin Campillo follows up his 2013 Eastern Boys with the rangey yet achingly intimate 120 BPM. The film charts the activities and group dynamics of Parisien ACT UP activists in the early nineties. A worthy recipient of the Grand Prix prize at Cannes in 2017, Campillo draws on his own experiences as a member of the AIDS organisation to craft a film that bounces between moments of direct action, raucous planning meetings, raves and hospital beds with a tangible sense of life and fury.

We’re introduced to the world of ACT UP through Nathan (Arnaud Valois) a young HIV-negative gay man who attends his first meeting at the start of the film and in doing so, provides an entryway into the complex machinations of the activist group. It’s through Nathan that Campillo carefully orients the viewer in this universe, as he is explained the strict codes of conduct that govern ACT UP, learns the intricate politics of the AIDS crisis circa ’90s Paris, and is introduced to the personalities involved in the struggle.

120 BPM
120 BPM

For a time, 120 BPM is diligent and effective as a rhythmic procedural that follows its large ensemble as they do the work of activists: bursting into ineffective or negligent research clinics (fake-blood bags in hand), meeting stakeholders, carrying out demonstrations or passionately debating the nuances of strategy. We’re presented with a broad roster of characters; amongst a score of others, Nathan meets leaders Thibault (Antoine Reinartz) and Sophie (Adèle Haenel), as well as Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), a HIV-positive man in his early twenties who becomes his lover.

The group’s interactions and sense of solidarity are all distinctly attuned to living with, or in proximity to HIV and AIDS. There are arguments and disagreements over policy and personal matters, but the film shows how the activists come together for the heart-wrenchingly practical procedures that they deploy in the face of tragedy. Campillo also studs his film with quiet, tenderly staged love scenes and moments of jubilant abandon that become ever more devastating as 120 BPM narrows its focus to the relationship between Nathan and Sean in its final third.

Indeed, 120 BPM’s standout image comes in a hazy scene in which the ACT UP group dance through the early hours. The camera racks focus to settle on particles of dust above the group’s heads, where, backlit by the club lighting, they slowly morph into HIV-infected blood cells. Scored by the throbbing beat of the club, the shot is a frighteningly potent and cinematic rendering of the inescapable shadow of the hovering disease and the life that persists in its presence.

1 August 2021 Tickets from £4.69

Where to go near Above The Line/ 120 BPM at Withy Public Hall

Maya
Manchester
Restaurant
MAYA Manchester

MAYA is a stylish new restaurant and bar on the corner of Canal Street and Chorlton in central Manchester.

Manchester
Restaurant
New Wave Ramen

New Wave Ramen is a stylish, friendly Japanese ramen bar and restaurant on Tib Lane in the heart of Manchester.

caprismcr - restaurant
City Centre
Restaurant
Capri’s Cucina Italiana

The King Street area isn’t short of popular Italian restaurants, but none strike quite the same note as Capri’s, where you’ll be greeted like family and served some of the most authentic Neapolitan food in Manchester.

The Feel Good Club exterior
Manchester
Event venue
Feel Good Club

Our flagship Feel Good Club in Manchester, open 7 days a week, providing a beautiful friendly environment for coffee, brunch, lunch, cocktails and beers with an amazing selection of non alcoholic beverages too.

Ancoats
Bar or Pub
Finders Keepers

Welcoming waterside bar in New Islington Marina, serving a wide array of carefully-curated cocktails.

City Centre
Restaurant
Climat

Highly-regarded wine-led, French-leaning wine bar and rooftop restaurant in the city centre.

Image licensed with iStock.
Stockport
Library
Stockport Central Library

Stockport Central Library is a Carnegie library, built 1913–15 in the Edwardian Baroque style. It continues to serve as Stockport’s largest library.

What's on: Cinema

Until
CinemaCheetham Hill
Jewish Culture Club

Meet new people, explore contemporary cultural works and learn about Jewish culture with Jewish Culture Club at Manchester Jewish Museum.

free entry

Culture Guides

Festival-goers at Green Island
Music in Manchester and the North

Gazing longingly towards the good times that will accompany the surely imminent sun, we take a look at the best music festivals coming up in Manchester and Salford.

Theatre in Manchester and the North
Theatre in Manchester and the North

Affecting contemporary performances and fresh, relevant takes on enduring classics, we pick out shows that help us scrutinise the world we live in.