Monday, November 11, 2013

Dare to Live: Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof who at the height of the AIDS crisis, after having been diagnosed with the disease, created a Buyers Club in Dallas to distribute an experimental treatment, which the FDA hadn’t yet evaluated. Mary Franklin, who was a receptionist at the Dallas Buyers Club, describes how its patients felt about the clinic, "I know it made them feel more powerful about their disease," Franklin says. "That they had a fighting chance, which is something the government was not offering.” Even though the film is poeticized (c.f. How Accurate Is Dallas Buyers Club?) it's strictly Woodroof’s story.
Dallas Buyers Club is a political film in that its subject is the governing and administration of the state. What are the responsibilities of the hospital institutions to the populace infected with this fatal disease? What are the pharmaceutical steps to find a medicinal cure? How do these two groups, the drug administration and the pharmaceutical companies, organize themselves to find a solution? Who are they accountable to? Are their methods transparent? How are their results disseminated in the media?
            These are some of the hard questions that are asked in Dallas Buyers Club and it does not offer any easy answers. It isn’t didactic on these issues but it's still succinct and direct in its engagement with them through its images and sounds. Dallas Buyers Club, like all of Vallée’s films, is about an individual reacting to a form of oppression. In C.R.A.Z.Y. the oppression is familial, in The Young Victoria it's patriarchal, in Café de Flore it's marital, and in Dallas Buyers Club it's medical.
Dallas Buyers Club presents this medical conflict sometimes in broad gestures, for example Woodroof's confrontation with the FDA is Capraesque. There are also scenes of social protest that are more subtle and recall The Case of the Grinning Cat while some other scenes are more critical and recall The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein. But what makes Dallas Buyers Club so unique is how Vallée brings all of these elements together to create an emotional experience that is also a site of resistance, empathy and utopian possibilities.

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