Derek Jarman  

Experimental, arty, gay British film-maker who is primarily a visualist, creating movies that employ montages, artsy compositions, poetic visual essays, gay imagery, and whimsical costumes or colors. He experimented often with home-made 8mm, enjoying the freedom it gave him, making several short films as well as using this footage in some full-length movies. The visual emphasis is ironic given his later blindness due to AIDS, but his aggressive, ardent character kept him going, his last movie consisting of audio accompanied by 90 minutes of a Blue screen. This drive and approach also resulted in personal (AKA self-indulgent) creations consisting of explorations of gay repression, biopics with an over-emphasis on sexuality, random gratuitous homo-eroticism that adds nothing to the movie, and movies that are pure and obscure visual poetry, or pretentious montages bringing to mind a more artsy Kenneth Anger. Died in 1994.

Of Some Interest

Another artsy biopic by Jarman, this one opting for Brechtian minimalism and detachment, stagy sets with only minimal colorful props mixed with some surreal touches. Wittgenstein's initial thoughts, childhood and developments are explored with various vignettes displaying his family as actors in costumed play, some internal philosophical discussions with a silly green alien, and various symbolic representations of the state of his mind. The rest of the major developments in his life are told with Dogville-esque minimal sets, black backgrounds and outrageously colorful and gay costumes, with frequent simplified lectures and discussions to present his thoughts as they develop. Being a Jarman film, his presumed and merely rumored homosexuality is explored a little too much, but he also posits (probably correctly) that his male affections were due to his dire and existential need to be intellectually understood. Overall, a flawed, somewhat whimsical, but interesting biopic that does deliver some interesting points for an active audience.


Garden, The  
Visual, symbolic, plotless, poetic gay propaganda. Jarman mixes together artistic references to various subjects like Eden and the story of Jesus, with modern-day repression, abuse, spectacle, intolerance, humiliation. Thus, the Virgin Mary is hounded and abused by paparazzi, priests drag a huge gold boulder, Jesus shown against a backdrop of flashing neon, gay men repressed in hell by religious figureheads or hounded by authority and teachers, colorful cross-dressers humiliated, a gay couple laughed at by Santa Clauses or unattractive men and then tarred and feathered, gay men as Jesus, etc. This is presented as a plotless visual poem and montage with many strange images that are probably obscure references (e.g. women making glasses sing on the beach). There are also some extremely campy scenes like when a hanging biker Judas is associated with credit cards and superficial happiness, and a woman sings "Think Pink" to a backdrop of gay parades. Some rare poetic segments but overall very uneven, crude, overlong and whimsical with a bad aftertaste of being bashed over the head with propaganda.

In the Shadow of the Sun  
50 minute montage of miscellaneous found footage and flames superimposed with images of statues and people in various costumes and masks, walking, posing, lying in the floor, washed with color filters and slowed down. This is set against the otherworldly industrial sounds of Throbbing Gristle. The overall effect and atmosphere is very dream-like and even nightmarish but with no discernible plot, point, structure or even theme, there is not much to do but get bored.

Queen Elizabeth I and a midget travel to a modern anarchistic punk-England by summoning an angel. In this world, a group of female punks and their token male friends perform ugly punk rock, rant about anything and everything, wear the crown jewels, and kill anyone famous after the nymphomaniac has sex with them. A mad tycoon is buying everything from palaces to artists, rock stars, movie studios and the KGB, just to mess up the world further, and the police are more violent than the punks. On a whim, Jarman inserts some arty scenes like a gay Jesus spectacle, and a ballerina dancing in front of a naked man and a fire. The pretentious poetry and artiness clashes with the punk attitude, and the punk rants make poseur, nonsensical statements that are supposed to be about punk philosophy. A complete waste of time.

Last of England, The  
Jarman's love for poetic and polemic montage reaches a wild and dense climax here with an extra layer of relevant audio. Amidst the random superimposed footage, and the rapidly cut-together barrage of images, there is an angry portrait of England: War, army training, families taken out to be shot, a gay couple having sex on top of the Union Jack, a naked man in the dumps sobbing while eating cauliflower, a woman trying to tear off her wedding dress and whirling like a dervish, a pervert humping a painting of a nude woman, man shooting up drugs, many run-down industrial zones etc. The audio includes all kinds of disorienting sounds, musical pieces, pounding noise, and historical speeches and interviews. I really tried to get into this one given the obviously immense amount of work put into it, but it felt most of the time like random masturbatory art with an aftertaste of an angry, empty rant.

Tempest, The  
Flippant, punkish, gay adaptation of Shakespeare by Derek Jarman. Indulgence is given to random costumes as if someone had a ball in a stage wardrobe, punkish hairdos, over-the-top clownish characters (especially Caliban), a grotesque scene of Caliban suckling at a big Dominatrix witch, random male nudity, strange dancing midgets as part of Prospero's magic, sloppy characterizations, omissions of plot-elements, and dancing sailors for the suddenly garish and musical wedding. Some interesting atmosphere and scenery, but mostly insulting to Shakespeare lovers.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents