Saturday, December 13, 2008

Milk Post Three

MILK so effectively stays on-story: Harvey Milk awakens at forty; moves to San Francisco with his new lover Scott; Milk helps develop the Castro as a gay Mecca; runs and runs for office until redistricting turns in his favor and he joins the City’s Board of Supervisors; as the first openly gay elected official in the United States Harvey Milk permanently and irrevocably affects positive change in the American psyche; lastly, he is shot down by a jilted co-worker, shot violently, tragically tumbling down with a banner advertising Tosca at the Opera in clear view.

All of this is historical fact (don’t know about the Tosca banner; though if the real-life friends and community leaders who helped to develop the film chose this fictitious embellishment, more power to them…).

So I am not ruining anything, and in fact one of the film’s strengths is that, like some other great works of art, it starts from the end. Diane Feinstein’s announcement of the assassination kicks off the film. Penn begins the recitation to a cassette tape of a script to be read upon the event of his assassination from the onset. And early on in the narrative, Milk proclaims to his lover on the event of his fortieth birthday that he will not see fifty. (One of the least elegant moments in the film is the heavy-handed repeating of this scene after the Honorable Supervisor Harvey Milk is shot.)

As someone who is about to turn forty, another thing of-note is the very promise of turning forty. Really, at every turn life presents renewal, and longevity encourages investigation, reassessment and opportunity, the promise of something new.

The other day I was talking to someone who said, “I don’t know what I want to do with my life.” I told her that’s a sentiment you will try and reclaim throughout your life -- “I don’t know what I want to do with my life" -- and to cherish it, cultivate it.

“My name is Harvey Milk and I want to recruit you,” he says over and over again to the public as a broad come on. Come on. Come on!

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