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A Frightful Tale of Truth and Fiction

One of the First Major Movies About AIDS Is a Powerful One

By Abigail N. Sosland

Be forewarned: Longtime Companion is not Dick Tracy; it is not your run-of-the-mill summer flick.

But AIDS is not your run-of-the-mill epidemic disease, either, and Longtime Companion aptly performs a wellneeded task--reminding us that life is not as predictable and rational as other summer films would have us believe.

Surprisingly, this is the first American movie to deal solely with AIDS. For a subject that has so changed the lives of millions of Americans, AIDS has, until now, been practically ignored by the creative media in this country.

Longtime Companion

Starring Bruce Davison and others

Directed by Norman Rene

Playing at the Nickelodeon

on Commonwealth Ave.

Craig Lucas and Norman Rene have taken an important first step in the process, and their work should be considered a great success. They have managed to create a film that is extremely moving and powerful. And surprisingly enough, it is also sweet, funny and enjoyable--well worth the two hours on a summer evening.

The movie centers around a group of friends, and traces their lives following their first introduction to a mysterious "cancer" appearing in gay communities around 1981. Over the years, the group becomes smaller and smaller, as some succumb to the virus and the survivors become increasingly terrified of every personal encounter.

Lucas and Rene focus on the human side of AIDS: the inability of good friends to know how to react properly to the illness, the changes in everyday life caused by fear and management of the virus and, of course, the virus' enormous impact on personal relationships and social behavior. The talented group of male actors convey their own special reactions to AIDS, and they create a mood of comaraderie and intimacy that is touching but not overly sentimental.

The friends are extremely likeable and watchable. They continue to laugh and to joke throughout the pain of the hospital visits and funerals. These men have fascinating careers, interesting conversations and meaningful intimate relationships. They are all good-looking, successful men, and their lives provide an interesting look at the gay community.

These are people with whom we empathize and with whom we empathize and with whom we want to identify. But except for a single heterosexual woman friend (Mary-Louise parker), all of the characters are gay men. The attention to gay men is crucial, since they are among the highest risk groups for AIDS, and it is clear that Lucas intended to concentrate on the group that has been most dramatically affected.

But if there is a fault to this movie, it is the danger that women and heterosexual viewers might come away underestimating their own vulnerability to AIDS. In today's world, everyone should take home a terrifying, sobering message from Longtime Companion.

Lest some of us should think we live in a glass bubble from which we may watch such movies--sympathetic and untouched--allow me to share my lesson with you.

As the movie ended in the Nickolodeon theater on Commonwealth Avenue, I prepared to leave the theater, but quickly realized I was the only one moving. The rest of the theater was silent and still until the credits had ended and the lights came on.

As we slowly filed out of the theater, I heard loud sobbing from one side of me, and saw around the theater groups of friends hugging silently.

The message was as strong as the film itself: Hollywood, for a change, has come close to the truth, and truth can be far more frightening than fiction.

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