Points For Sheer Audacity and Lunacy
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 09/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Well, I am drawn to fantastical and different-sounding entertainment. So when I heard about "Zero Patience" I was intrigued. Let's face it--a story about AIDS typically wouldn't be produced as a musical comedy. Add to the mix a purgatory with synchronized swimming and the one of the main characters being Richard Burton, author of "Arabian Night", alive and young due to the fountain of youth and working as a Canadian taxidermist--well, you've thrown in absurd fantasy as well. So you know I'm going to be kind. This is high concept entertainment. And for anyone that says I'm just being nice to support this "gay" film, I'd counter that I would have had exactly the same reaction if the main storyline was about abortion--or any other topic at odds with the bizarre setup.
I am not giving the film my unconditional love--proceed at your own risk. This is adventurous ground and I believe a somewhat "love it or hate it" phenomenon. The budget was low and the film feels inexpensive, but I think this acts in the movie's favor. Not all the performers are as accomplished as you might like. Some songs work quite well, others are borderline. Most of the comedy comes from preposterous situations, and off the wall irreverence. I happen to like this sort of humor. Hell, I'd pay to go to a museum exhibit called "The Hall of Contagion", so that's just one of the elements that had me chuckling and rolling my eyes. And a duet sung be an unusual part of your anatomy is as inspired a lunacy as your likely to see in a long time.
The narrative drive is sometimes lacking--but the film isn't really about telling a conventional story. The "message" really isn't all that challenging or innovative, but was probably riskier when the film was made in 1993.
But I admire the film for taking chances at every turn. By being completely original in concept and execution, it stands alone in its genre. And I have a special place in my heart for someone who breaks the rules, throws away political correctness, defies logic. It's "balls to the walls" filmmaking where most films play it safe. So I'm giving this film much respect, though it's far from perfect. It's not for everyone--it is audacious and daring--but if it sounds like you'll hate it, you probably will! KGHarris, 9/06."
Radical and Entertaining
RickC | 09/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I saw that the only reviewer of this fine film had given it one star and raked it over the coals, I felt compelled to write a review that gave a fair critique of the film.
The film is amazing on many levels. As a musical, it works. If not for the subject matter, I bet Broadway would have scooped it up. The song "Six of Seven Things" is beautiful as are "Just Like Scherazade" and "Zero Patience." More importantly, the politics of the piece are important. While we no longer point fingers as one individual "Patient Zero" of AIDS, our culture still engaged in the rhetoric of blame when it comes to the disease in our demarcation of the "innocents" infected via blood transfusion and those who practice unsafe sex or engage in drug use. Zero's proclamation, "Tell the story, clear my name. We don't need someone to blame" echoes today in a culture that indicts those that engage in high risk activities as somehow deserving of the virus.
The film's creative vision is ingenious. The incorporation of the Victorian sexologist Sir Richard Burton as Zero's lover is brilliant! The theme of detecting the truth about the disease shows that things have not changed all that much in a hundred years. The motif of Burton's "A Thousand Nights and One Night" into Zero telling his own story in his own words is indicative of the powerful meshing of creative genius with radical polemic.
The film was one of the first to really give an honest voice to a gay man with AIDS. I defy anyone to say that films like "An Early Frost" or "Grief" or "Parting Glances" or "Longtime Companion" are as powerful and important as this one. AIDS does not serve as watered down melodrama here. It is the vehicle to indict a diseased society for its intolerance. This is one of the most underrated films of all time. Sure, it has singing anuses, but the ruse is used to question a cultural obsession with embracing Freud's death drive. You're not going to see that kind of intelligent engagement in the myriad other films about AIDS that use it invoke pathos, not profundity.
Buy this film. It is a truly beautiful piece of art!"
"He led such a promiscuous lifestyle!"
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/14/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Cheaply made, looking as though it has been cobbled together at a moments notice, with forgettable songs, and equality forgettable musical numbers, one might be tempted to discount Patience Zero is an irrelevance, a bad movie. However, if one reads between the lines, there's an amazing amount of quite profound information in this film as arty Canadian filmmaker, John Greyson examines a particularly forceful urban myth about the origin of Aids in North America.
Made in 1993 and now finally released on DVD, there is much about Patience Zero that seems dated. HIV drugs are now widely available in the U.S, people are longer dropping dead from AIDS, and the debilitating diseases that come with AIDS are largely a thing of the past. But although emblematic of an era, the movie still asks some probing and thought-provoking questions about the source of this terrible virus.
As the ghost of the French-Canadian flight attendant called Patient Zero (Normand Fauteux) wanders the city, the only person who can see him is the Victorian explorer/sexologist Sir Richard Burton (John Robinson). Together they plan a museum exhibition on the origins of AIDS in the Museum of Natural History in Toronto in order to debunk some of the myths of the disease.
As Sir Richard starts to collect his museum pieces, several activists and Aids patients swirl around the edges trying to clarify the exhibition's focus. Burton also explores the gay subculture, videoing men in saunas, and interviewing Patient Zero's mother, the doctor who first diagnosed him, along with various members of the Act-up community. Burton's initial motives are mercenary, but his encounters change his views on quite a number of things, including his own sexuality, as he eventually falls in love with the ghost.
Amongst all the corny musical numbers and tawdry songs, there's a rather well-told, touching subplot involving a teacher of elementary students (Ricardo Keens-Douglas) who is going blind as a result of AIDS complications. But by enlarge; Patience Zero, while an admirable effort, is dramatically bankrupt. The script lacks coherence and intelligence, and the acting is somewhat cheesy and silly, although Robinson is sexy and likable as Burton.
The film darts all over the place, and as such it's both informative and bewildering. Scenes are filled with quirky references to the politics of the time, such as the lack of drug funding, along with references to issues of denial, abandonment, fear, corporate greed, misinformation, and activism. It also takes a well-aimed jab at medical orthodoxy, which was quick to embrace unproven facts.
The choreography in the musical numbers is for the most part of simplistic and clunky, but endearing, and some of the songs have a dangerously absurd sense of humour and take-no-prisoners approach even if they do come across as enormously silly. Mike Leonard September 05.
A very influential movie at the start of the epidemic
R. King | Philly, PA | 10/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie had an incredible influence on people's prejudices and misconceptions about AIDS at the very start of the epidemic. Although it was done in a somewhat campy format, its message about the goverment and pharmaceutical companies was loud and clear - "Blinded by Greed." For those who are interested in the history of AIDS or wasn't there at the start and want to know more, this movie is a required viewing. The only warning is this movie isn't for the young or homophobic."