Directed by Jay Corcoran
Undetectable is a feature documentary, following for three years six Boston residents on the new multi-drug therapies for HIV disease. The film examines the complex physical and psychological effects of the treatment on three women and three men of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and the importance of AIDS education and advocacy within both the gay and poor and minority communities. It was broadcast on PBS, Independent Lens.
Undetectable looks to the next stage of the AIDS crisis: how many of those affected deal for the first time with hope, and how the fortunate number who respond to the drugs face both a grueling treatment regimen and the challenge of rebuilding their lives during a reprieve from what was formerly a death sentence. For many there are devastating side effects; a third cope with the desperation and frustration that accompanies the lack of any response.
Above all, the film looks to the changing face of the epidemic, posing difficult questions about the readiness of both the AIDS support community and the unaffected larger world to contend with the changing demographics of the disease. For the first time since the beginning of the U.S. epidemic, the number of new cases among Blacks and Hispanics have surpassed that among Whites. Coinciding with the appearance of the expensive new therapies, this development suggests that the politics of AIDS will be more and more racially and ethnically charged.
“A pungent social mosaic that in slicing across boundaries of sex, class and ethnicity has moments of heartbreaking intimacy… Besides being a powerful human document, the film is a reminder that AIDS miracle drugs are no quick fix and that the end of the epidemic is not in sight.”
Stephen Holden, New York Times
Jon Matsumoto, Variety
“So moving and powerful because it reminds us how rarely we look into the human face of AIDS..The strength of the film is its simplicity.”
Loren King, Boston Globe
John Leonard, New York Magazine
Critic’s Choice, Boston Magazine
Directed by Jay Corcoran
This striking documentary by New York actor and playwright Jay Corcoran, details the life and death of Tom McBride, a New York actor and model dying of Progressive Multi-focal Leucoencephalopathy (PML), an AIDS-related brain disease.
McBride’s “All-American” good looks made him a familiar face in television commercials, print ads and films through the ’70s and ’80s. He even became that most emblematic of masculine images: the Winston man. For many gay men, McBride became an icon exemplifying life on the “A-List” — the whirl of sex, drugs, theme parties, and summers on Fire Island that made New York’s gay scene famous. But McBride’s glamorous life was stalked by his sexual obsession and compulsive drive.
Corcoran’s film takes an unsparing look at one man’s relationship to his beautiful body and how he copes with its disintegration. More profoundly, LIFE AND DEATH ON THE A-LIST is about us: our bodies, our fantasies, our dreams of sexual fulfillment. Tom McBride is a fallible, tragic hero pointing the way to a more humane vision of how we all — gay and straight — might view our lives, bodies, and the endless possibilities of life.
“This intimate view of an unrepentant sexual adventurer raises tough questions about personal values, vanity and the emphasis on beauty in the fast lane of New York gay life.”
Stephen Holden, New York Times, Critics Choice
“Wrenching, …wryly humorous and unflinching.”
Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times, Critics Choice
“Absolutely enthralling.., leaves you breathless at the range and depth with which it tackles the power of the libido, issues of gay self-hatred, and the use of sex to conquer, degrade and compensate for rejection in other areas of life.”
Ernest Hardy, LA Weekly, Critics Choice
“Painfully honest… riveting.”
Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe, Critics Choice