“Milk” quenches thirst for excellence

As moviegoers, we know that when Sean Penn comes out to play, we’re in for Oscar-worthy method acting at its finest. Pair him with director and auteur Gus Van Sant, and you get “Milk,” a celebratory montage of the tenacity and courage of gay rights activist Harvey Milk. Milk was elected San Francisco City Supervisor in 1977 as America’s first openly gay elected official. Like his predecessors Martin Luther King, Jr. and JFK, he was assassinated for his appeals to justice. Josh Brolin plays murderer Dan White with a stern monotonous expression – channeling the living dead as an ice-cold competitor. Van Sant is a true mastermind of the patch-work narrative. His selective blending of stock news footage, as well as photography from the 1970s, makes the film feel more like an attributive collage, adding a sense of suspense to a well-known story. “Milk” strays from hokey period pieces like “Pearl Harbor” and “Bobby” with Van Sant effortlessly splicing footage and narrative, presenting both Milk’s story and the multi-faceted nature of a human rights campaign. Despite Van Sant’s return to a less experimental linear narrative, unlike his past indie breakthroughs “Paranoid Park” and “Elephant,” he still manages to rewrite the traditional format of the biopic canon. Attesting to the interrelated themes of homosexuality, self-identity and the innerstruggle for self and public acceptance of gay men and women, Van Sant and cinematographer Harris Savides rely heavily on reflection. Every murder scene, barring Milk’s, is shot through a reflection of some sort. Milk witnesses a murder of a young gay couple through the reflection of the victim’s castaway whistle. Lacking in violence and bloodshed, the reflection provides us with an eerie perspective of the dead victim whose voice has been lost. While he is dead, the battle is far from over. This is a precise affirmation of the artists’ link between said ideology and technique. Van Sant invites us here to participate in Milk’s pain, vision and motivation. A must-see for film students, activists, and every human being.”Milk” Directed by Gus Van Sant Focus Features Rated: R Directing 4.5/5 Cinematography 5/5 Acting 5/5 Steamy Sex Scenes: 5/5