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And the Band Played On Movie Review

aids film plague virus

In spite of all the hands that have clearly fiddled with And the Band Played On, it is still as good a film as we are likely to get anytime soon about the early years of the AIDS epidemic. And if millions decide to watch it only to see dozens of big stars acting their hearts out in cameos, they may still learn more about AIDS than they have from the guarded sound bites that represent their major source of information to date. What will the inhabitants of this planet in the 25th century think of how we handled these plague years after watching a movie like And the Band Played On? Historically, deadly plagues have always revealed the dark side of human nature as this one does; plague victims are either shunned or rushed to their graves by the ignorance of both their communities and their doctors. Throughout much of the 20th century, we've clung to the touching notion that science could solve our every problem, forgetting that the great influenza plague of 1918 claimed twice as many lives as World War I. Because the progress of that virus was so swift and so deadly, its victims left behind very little documentation. But the AIDS epidemic has been with us for the better part of two decades with no respite in sight yet. There is certainly no happy ending from the guy on the white horse, the former Center for Disease Control researcher Don Francis, earnestly played by Matthew Modine. Except for his dedication to his work, we know nothing about him. In fact, we learn nothing about the cipher-like doctors who fight the government bureaucracy as they struggle to identify and treat the virus; Glenne Headly and Lily Tomlin are among them. Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell play themselves courtesy of old video tapes, and Robert Gallo, another bad guy fixated on winning the Nobel Prize, is well played by Alan Alda. When the film does try to show the private life of someone like the late gay activist Bill Kraus, it gets it wrong, by dredging up the old movie bio cliche of the discontented lover who's jealous of all that political activism. In trying to reach middle America, the film is scrupulous about not depicting anyone who appears to be TOO gay. It reinforces the point that straight people and hemophiliacs could contract the virus or that babies might be born with AIDS and THAT'S when government leaders began to focus on the spread of the disease, by then out of control. But as the first widely distributed major film to deal with the politics of AIDS, it is successful in attracting our attention, concern, and hopefully, effective international demands for a timely cure. And the Band Played On, based on the book by the late journalist Randy Shilts, originally aired on the Home Box Office cable network and was also released theatrically in Europe.

1993 (PG-13) 140m/C Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Ian McKellen, Lily Tomlin, Glenne Headly, Richard Masur, Saul Rubinek, Charles Martin Smith, Patrick Bauchau, Nathalie Baye, Christian Clemenson; Cameos: Richard Gere, David Clennon, Phil Collins, Alex Courtney, David Dukes, David Marshall Grant, Ronald Guttman, Anjelica Huston, Ken Jenkins, Richard Jenkins, Tcheky Karyo, Swoosie Kurtz, Jack Laufer, Steve Martin, Dakin Matthews, Peter McRobbie, Lawrence Monoson, B.D. Wong, Donal Logue, Jeffrey Nordling, Stephen Spinella; D: Roger Spottiswoode; W: Arnold Schulman; C: Paul Elliott; M: Carter Burwell. VHS, LV, Closed Caption

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