There have been some essential movies on the early days of the AIDS epidemic, including Philadelphia, Parting Glances, Jeffrey, Longtime Companion, An Early Frost, As Is. It's difficult to imagine a film bringing something new to the genre.
Thankfully, writer/director Chris Mason Johnson's excellent, gripping, surprisingly funny and beautifully shot Test does just that.
Rather than focusing on death and dying, Test explores that fragile period in 1985 when we knew about AIDS but not how to respond and newspaper headlines proclaimed such things as "Should Gays be Quarantined?"
Enter Frankie (the superlative Scott Marlowe), a sensitive young dancer in San Francisco whose uncertainty and anxiety about the virus manifests in poignant and brutally familiar ways. He meets his match in man-whore Todd, another dancer who challenges Frankie's concept of what it means to be safe in an unsafe world.
Both Marlowe and Risch offer rich, layered performances but also dance exquisitely to Sidra Bell's primal choreography. Johnson's skill is perhaps most evident in his patience; his storytelling takes its time, with lingering shots that allow both character and viewer to sit in any given moment. It's a rare confidence and it pays off in satisfying ways.
WATCH THE TRAILER:
Trailer for TEST (SD) from Serious Productions on Vimeo.
Test screens July 18 as part of Outfest Los Angeles. For tickets, call 213.480.7065 or visit the website.