Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cinema | Milk - Gus Van Sant

Milk was directed by Gus Van Sant and released in 2008. The main character is played by Sean Penn. The story takes place in the seventies. It tells the story of Harvey Milk and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights. Through the film, we can see him became California's first openly gay elected official...

First of all, I think Milk is a moving and elegant film with a well paced story and plot. It’s also a historically accurate picture that really well explains Milk's life and death.

Before I watched the movie, I did hear about Harvey Milk and wanted to know more about him. Thanks to this movie I now know who he was and what he did and I think that all the narrow-minded of every stripes should see this film because it is essential! Not only for gays but for all the silent minorities such as women, old people, disabled. This movie must be seen by all students because through it you can understand what politics represent in our life and how we have to fight against injustice.

Harvey Milk at the 1978 Gay Pride

On one hand, this picture shows very well the damage caused by the ostracism to which a person may be confronted to because of who she is. But more importantly, this movie goes to the historical sources of a struggle still relevant. It shows how a fight which started as a "community" has expanded by taking into account the needs of all citizens.

On the other hand, I think Milk can also be qualified as an intense and poignant movie because it tells the story of a man who, by his energy and his beliefs, has managed to convince thousands of people to join him.

When the movie starts, Harvey Milk is 40, at the end, he just turned 48. It means that in 8 years he has done many greats things. This man is inspiring. His story too.

Moreover, the strength of Milk is also due to the fact that it is worn with virtuosity by Sean Penn who is incredible in this role.

Besides, I've seen an other biopic in which he played the main character too (Sweet and Lowdown directed by Woody Allen) and I also found that his interpretation was perfect. I truely think he's one of the few to know how to erase himself to the benefit of his character. And that's why he is as great as the battle he's fighting for in the movie, (the same battle which he is the perfect interpreter remains valid.)
In addition, something I really appreciated is how the movie shows that Harvey Milk had a particular sense of humor (58:00) ( dog poop all dog owners who don't clean up their mess will be fined). And despite of his sad love stories, he was a lively, optimistic and very determined person (when Jack commits suicide, he keeps fighting. Again, it proves his commitment.)

Also, I really enjoyed the nesting images of 70/80, the grain of the photo, the colors : everything takes us back in those years so hard for the gay community. Gus Van Sant seems deeply respectful for historical truth, without particular stylistic effect. In this way, he managed to break the mold rather rigid biopic, and transcended a montage of rare intelligence (historical documents cleverly integrated which perfectly serve the film's style and never seem like items reported).

Furthermore, the treatment plot is relevant. While the movie is marked by many strong scenes (the electioneering, outrage at conservative opposition, tension between domestic and public life, insider politicking, public demonstrations) The quality of the writing, acting and directing generally invests all these scenes with the feel of real life and credible personal interchange.

Above all, by watching Milk I learned many things. For example, I wasn't aware of the fact that in California, people like Senator Briggs wanted to fire homosexuals teachers and all people who support them because they believed the teacher's sexual orientation affected the pupils badly.

These same teachers who didn't ask for anything were treated as perverts and pedophiles and were accused to be bad examples for the children because of their so called « deviant life styles ».

Senator Briggs even said that homosexuals became teacher to made pupils join them. And that they weren't teaching good values but bestiality.
I was particulary shocked by those words because they're outrageous, false, crazy and I never imagined that people could actually think of such things.

I saw this sentence : « i'm not teaching sex but spanish » written on a banner and I wanted to write it down because I think it's all we have to say about this situation.

In any case, I admire Harvey Milk because he chose to say the truth. He wanted everybody to know that even if the gay community represented only 10 percent of the entire population, they existed and they had to be recognized.

There is a scene (1:31) in which he's giving a speech and he refers to what it is written in the Statue of Liberty (« "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free ») and also to what it is written in the declaration of independence («  all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights ») And he says that if there a thing to know is that « you can never erase those words from the declaration ».

Another thing I've learned is that homosexuals were wearing whistles and used them when they were attacked. I think it's really ingenious but in an other hand, it shows how bad they were treated.

Willing to change people minds, Harvey Milk he's also a man who put his private life aside to devote himself to what he believed was fair. It was not about personal aim or power. Then, we can say that, by defending honorable and various values, he died with honor.

The message of this movie is to never lose hope. Hopes make us live as Harvey Milk said and we must lutter for our beliefs.

Smartly crafted Milk conveys a shrewd sense of period and place and catches well the look, sound, and feel of the seventies.

Milk is more a movie about the creation of a movement for civil rights and a battle that goes beyond a minority than a biopic.

I highly recommend it for any movie watcher, gay activists, and people with morals. It isn't a ”gay” movie at all.

If you're interested by biopics and the lgbt community, there is another movie with James Franco (in Milk he plays Scott Smith). This movie is Howl which is the story of an American poet : Allen Ginsberg. It is also a great movie so I advise you to watch it.

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