1985
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1985

Gay fests are currently showing a restoration of the late Arthur J. Bressan Jr.’s “Buddies,” a microbudgeted drama that arrived in 1985 as the first-ever narrative feature about the AIDS crisis, one resolutely from the viewpoint of the already hard-hit gay community. A few months later network TV waded in with the acclaimed “An Early Frost,” which like most early mainstream treatments of the subject took a perspective designed to soften up AIDS-phobic Middle America — that of “respectable” parents coming to terms with their sons’ homosexuality as well as probably terminal illnesses.

Bridging the two 30-odd years later is Yen Tan’s fine “1985,” which expands on ideas first explored in his short of the same name two years ago. This excellent drama presents an ’80s flashback perhaps even more uncomfortably familiar to many gay men who survived that era than the stricken Manhattan of “Buddies” or the upscale suburbia of “Frost.” Here, we get a scenario many of them witnessed at the time: returning from the big city whose freedom they’d fled to, paying a possible last visit after HIV diagnosis to small-town families either oblivious to or hostile toward their sexual identity. Shot in black-and-white Super 16, it’s a finely observed portrait of largely unarticulated tensions forced to the surface by the pressure of a “gay plague” then with scant hope of medical salvation.

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