30 years have passed since the assassination of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and, the ballot passage of California's recent Proposition 8 notwithstanding, advances have been made in the area of gay rights, although there are still many hurdles left to be cleared. Gus Van Sant points his camera back to the 1970s to capture a small series of similarities to today's climate as filtered through huge refracted differences. By imbuing the characters with humanity and personality, Van Sant avoids the obvious traps of making Milk a sycophantic tribute or a slickly made piece of propaganda. The story sticks as close to the facts as any bio-pic I can think of and Van Sant uses plenty of genuine '70s stock footage to amplify the period verisimilitude. As important as is Milk's contribution to understanding the turbulent world of three decades past, the film is equally notable for its ability to reflect how the fight for which Milk died still rages.
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