Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In memory of Harvey Milk

The documentary The Life of Harvey Milk (which currently can be found for free on always leaves me to mourn a life cut short by violence and to ponder what contributions Harvey Milk might have fulfilled had his life been extended. In life, Milk lived large on a political stage; but in death, he galvanized identity politics to became an iconic figure for a movement.

In the opening scene of Milk, Sean Penn's performance transports viewers to the halcyon years of the 1970s. Penn is Milk. His performance emanates a multi-dimensional interpretation of Milk, capturing his joy, compassion and skillful determination, without any hint of caricature.

Gus Van Sant, too, doesn't disappoint viewers. He splices in archival footage and disorienting close up shots to give the film his signature look and feel. Too bad the film wasn't released before the November election to remind voters of the parallels between Prop 8 and Prop 6, of which the later Milk fought while in the role of City Supervisor.

The above icon of Harvey Milk, by Brother Robert Lentz, OFM, left me awestruck the first time I saw it in the bookstore of a Catholic Monastery in Vermont.

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