Friday 23 January 2009
Harvey Milk is a folk-icon of American politics, the first out-of-the-closet gay man to be elected to public office and, later, a martyr to the cause when he was shot dead by a deranged colleague in 1978.
Gus Van Sant's loving biopic begins Milk's story on the eve of his 40th birthday when he picks up a young dude Scott (James Franco) on the New York subway and simultaneously decides to do something with his life.
He relocates with Scott to San Francisco, launching himself as "mayor of Castro Street" and friend to the marginalised. "My name is Harvey Milk and I want to recruit you!" is his battle-cry, and plenty of citizens, gay and straight, would eventually heed it. In the title role Sean Penn, a byword for screen machismo, is counterintuitive casting, yet he commits to it brilliantly, shy and awkward at first, then a fearless trailblazer who campaigned for gay rights in the face of death threats.
As a public figure Van Sant does him full justice; as a private individual, tormented by a needy Latino lover (Diego Luna) the film is much vaguer. There are longueurs here and there, but Milk has a lot of bottle, and its tribute to his achievement is very movingly represented in the black and white archive newsreels of police raids on gays bars, with men covering their faces to protect their identities. It's strange and horrifying to see those pictures now, and to realise how recently a civilised society demonised its own. Harvey Milk was determined to make them change.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
Suicide Squad's Margot Robbie: Jared Leto's now more petrifying when out of his Joker make-up
Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban, Grégoire Delacourt’s The First Thing You See, to be published in UK
The Girl in the Spider's Web, David Lagercrantz, review: Stieg Larsson's heroes return in a thrilling new intrigue
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs