-->
Film

The 100 Essential Directors Part 5: Derek Jarman to Mike Leigh

Mid-way through our series, Day 5 is a glorious mishmash of international auteurist cinema. Today we go from saints and sinners, from Brookyln to Britain, from the beginning of time to the Dystopian future, and around the world and beyond.

Mid-way through our series, Day 5 is a glorious mishmash of international auteurist cinema. Beginning with Derek Jarman's sumptuous visions and ending with three directors who might share a name, but have very little else in common. Today we go from saints and sinners, from Brookyln to Britain, from the beginning of time to the Dystopian future, and around the world and beyond.

 

Derek Jarman
(1942 - 1994)

Three Key Films: Caravaggio (1986), The Last of England (1987), Blue (1993)

Underrated: Sebastiane (1976) Jarman’s debut and the first film shot entirely in Latin is a marriage of Jarman’s greatest loves and concerns: history and homosexuality. Produced with a tiny budget (£25,000/$45,000) it was the first openly homoerotic British film and announced a fresh new voice for an ailing British film industry in the mid-'70s. Through the tale of roman soldier and martyr Saint Sebastian, Jarman switches between the everyday life of the soldiers and vivid homoerotic encounters that celebrate unashamedly the male nude. Yet crucially he balances this visual feast with a complex portrayal of Sebastian’s journey towards spirituality, not reducing the story to its known conclusion but highlighting the multi-faceted nature and questions that arise from religious experience.

Unforgettable: Final moments of Blue. A luminous blue screen that never moves or changes, takes us back to the conception of moving pictures, the tradition and history that occupied Jarman constantly. With only a soundtrack to ‘move’ the film, the blue becomes a filter for our own images created behind or in front of the screen. Filmed months before Jarman’s death from AIDS, he was beginning to lose his sight and his vision became blurred by a blue tinge. The audio is narrated sections, spoken by various friends and actors, from his diary, revealing his poetical struggle with AIDS. Against sentimentality Blue is a rejection artifice and also a political statement against the AIDS epidemic. “ No ninety minutes could deal with the eight years HIV takes to get its host. Hollywood can only sentimentalize it.” The film ends with these lines, and remains the most moving scene in his work: “For our time is the passing of a shadow and our lives will run like sparks through the stubble. I place a delphinium. Blue, upon your grave.”

Caravaggio (1986)

The Legend: A young man makes love to a black-masked fascist commando on top of a large Union Jack flag. This is one of the most memorable and symbolic scenes of The Last of England and a view into the nerve center of Jarman’s work and life. If given only two subjects that would occupy Jarman there is no doubt that these would be his sexuality and his country. Both aspects powerfully united on the British flag in The Last of England, defined by his discovery that he was HIV positive in 1986 and the political situation in England.

The Last of England, is an assault in many ways, asking the viewer to fight to find their own interpretation within the visual richness. It is an experimental film, a bricolage of old home movies, staged scenes from literature and art history and contemporary events thrust among a terrifying vision of the future.

Jarman is known best as one of Britain’s most controversial filmmakers. As experimental with the art of film as with taboo-breaking subjects, he was however caught between being a radical and a traditionalist.

Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman grew up on various RAF bases around England, his father a strict military officer who agreed to his son studying art only after he had pursued a degree in History, English and Art History. He went on to study painting, but his introduction to film came through his interest in costume design. After a chance meeting on a train from Paris with a friend of Ken Russell’s he was invited to design The Devils (1971) for Russell, giving him an insight into professional filmmaking. The costumes would remain with Jarman, the juxtaposition of different settings and moments in history fascinated him, leading to his avant-garde interpretations of many historical dramas. The first of which, Sebastiane, used history as the site for sexual investigation. A Renaissance man trapped in punk London, Jarman’s ideal project was Caravaggio, a chance to indulge in painterly light, artist struggles and complex relationships. Seven years in the making Jarman himself struggled with funding, becoming frustrated by the formalities he returned shortly after to the casualness of the Super 8 for The Last of England.

Shortly before Caravaggio’s premiere Jarman took the HIV test. The discovery led to him abandoning conventional cinema and speeding ahead with experimental work. War Requiem (1988) the filmic interpretation of Benjamin Britten’s mass, followed within a year of The Last of England. His father died and with the money left to him Jarman bought a small cottage in Dungeness, in the shadow of a power station, where he became to cultivate a garden. Recording the fruits of his labor in The Garden (1990) love also blossomed for Jarman bringing him serenity in his later years. From 1990 to his death in 1994 he produced three films, Edward II (1991), Wittgenstein (1993) and Blue (1993). Blue, perhaps the most radical of all Jarman’s films, is an elegiac abstract of life and film and a testament to the visionary filmmaker who never stopped even when his sight began to fail. Jennifer Hamblett

 

 

 

Next Page

Kuinka appeal to ornery Renaissance royalty with a joyous song in their infectiously fun new music video.

With the release of Americana band Kuinka's Stay Up Late EP earlier this year, the quartet took creative steps forward to deftly expand their sound into folk-pop territory. Riding in on the trend of moves made by bands like the Head and the Heart and the National Parks in recent years, they've traded in their raw roots sound for a bit more pop polish. Kuinka has kept the same singalong, celebratory vibe that they've been toting all this time, but there was a fork in the sonic highway that they boldly took this go-around. In this writer's opinion, they succeeded in once again captivating their audience, just in a respectably newfound way.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image