Film review: Larry Kramer In Love & Anger

Larry KramerDir., Carlomusto, Jean. Larry Kramer In Love & Anger. HBO, 2015. Film. 81 min. $19.95.

This biographical documentary is aptly titled: we see writer and LGBT/AIDS activist Larry Kramer in his life of action, inspired both by love for his community, and anger culminating in his decades-long crusade to rouse the emotions and actions of both the LGBT and straight worlds against AIDS, aka, the “gay plague.” Along the way, we meet a multi-faceted man whose impact on public health medicine in general and the LGBT world in particular has been incalculable.

Thanks to vintage film footage and interviews with Kramer himself at various times in his activist career, along with reflections from many of his contemporaries, viewers will learn much about 1970s/1980s LGBT and AIDS epidemic history. Kramer has been an articulate, often profane, arguably heroic voice in the wilderness- from his early days as a Hollywood screenwriter (Oscar-nominated for 1969’s Women In Love) and controversial novelist (1978’s Faggots) to Broadway playwright (with 1985’s The Normal Heart), and full-time rabble-rouser. He wrestled with the governmental/media institutions all around him, and even within the ranks of the LGBT organizations he created: Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP.

Interspersed with Kramer’s comments and the reminiscences of those who joined him on the 1980s front lines are scenes from his 2013 hospitalization following a liver transplant necessitated by his HIV-positivity. His long-time partner David is at his bedside as they legally marry. A witness to that ceremony declares, “I wouldn’t be alive at all, if not for Larry Kramer.” With the passage of time has come gratitude and deep respect for Kramer’s continually-abrasive yet passionate fights on behalf of the LGBT population.

This film is occasionally difficult to watch, but always riveting, and offers audiences an excellent crash course on 1980s LGBT/AIDS history. It is highly recommended for all LGBT and general history/biography collections.

Cathy Ritchie
Acquisitions/Selection Services
Dallas (TX) Public Library

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