Whats Worth Watching: Honoring Larry Kramer at 80


Larry Kramer In Love and Anger (HBO, Monday, June 29, 9/8c, HBO)

Having produced the Emmy-winning film version of his great polemical play The Normal Heart, HBO now offers a stirring and moving biographical portrait of the uncompromising writer-activist who demanded the world take action against AIDS. Larry Kramer, who turned 80 last week, is as outspoken as ever, though frail with illness, having lived with HIV for decades. Producer/director Jean Carlomusto’s strikingly intimate film shows Kramer, in contemporary scenes from a year ago, battling complications from a liver transplant in a hospital room, where he marries his longtime and loyal partner David Webster in an affectingly emotional interlude.

Love is only part of the Larry Kramer story. He’s better known for his unquenchable anger and profane vitriol as a founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis in the wake of the AIDS epidemic, and later, after being booted from that organization for his confrontational style, of the militant ACT UP. Often condemned at the time, even by fellow advocates, for his fiery rhetoric, which is well represented in the film, Kramer is now celebrated for his uncompromising hounding of the Reagan administration and New York City’s leadership to acknowledge the severity of this disease. In addition to scenes from his more biographical plays, the documentary also reminds us of Kramer’s Hollywood heyday as a celebrated screenwriter/producer in the 1970s, including such highs as the infamous nude wrestling scene in Ken Russell’s Women in Love, and the campy low of the shockingly inept Lost Horizon musical—which, ironically, made him enough money to help fund his future efforts on stage and the world stage.