A true twentieth-century trailblazer, Harvey Milk was immortalised to modern audiences in Gus Van Sant’s Milk, starring Sean Penn in an Academy Award-winning performance as the iconic activist and politician. But many people’s relationship with Harvey began with Robert Epstein’s powerful documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, finally reaching Blu-ray on the UK courtesy of The Criterion Collection.
Winner of the 1984 Academy Award for Best Documentary, this ground-breaking film was one of the first feature documentaries to address gay life in America. Bringing Harvey Milk’s messages of love, hope and equality to a wider audience, the film is an incredibly moving and poignant study of the great man from his early days of activism right up to his unforgivable assassination. As well as being a testament to the legacy of Milk and a biographical study of his life and work, it is also a vivid portrait of the titular ‘times’ of Harvey – the stunning wealth of archival footage and news reports paint a transportive picture of 1970s San Francisco.
The Times of Harvey Milk is, at times, a difficult watch. The section of the film dedicated to Milk’s cowardly assassination and the farcical trial of his murderer Dan White (who got away with manslaughter on the grounds that he wasn’t in his right mind due to the excessive junk food he ate) is extremely upsetting. But this is balanced by the tear-jerking footage of the peaceful candlelit vigil that filled the streets of San Francisco in love and tribute to the iconic, inspiring, brave and legendary Harvey Milk.
Criterion’s Blu-ray release presents the film in a stunning 2K restoration, supervised and approved by director Robert Epstein. The result is an exceptional transfer that very rarely falls victim to the limitations of the source material (1970s TV news reports, etc). A great wealth of supplements include deleted interviews and Harvey Milk recordings, a wonderful featurette on Gus Van Sant’s biopic and much more.
The Times of Harvey Milk should be required viewing for all, and the flame of its timeless message and legendary subject burns brighter than ever in this wonderful Blu-ray release.