Camera... sound... revolution...
yorgos dalman | Holland, Europe | 03/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The last of England" is one of Jarman's collage movies. With that I mean that these films show no straight A to B narrative, no real main characters or meaningful dialogues; it's just an accumulation of stark, surreal and offbeat images, with highly experimental music and soundscapes, and a lot of underlying anger. More about that anger later on.
Jarman made a handful of these speciffic kind of films. Before "The last of England" there was "The Angelic conversation", with mesmerising music by Coil, showing in slow motion young men, lovers perhaps, walking, watching, touching, carressing, ultimately just being together, with well-voiced actress Judy Dench dropping a Shakespeare sonnet every now and then. A one and a half hour long moving painting.
In 1990, after Jarman discovered he had HIV, he made his most notorious collage film: "The Garden". A surreal, homosexual version of the Passion of Christ, with a storm of biting images, often both visual stunning and lyrical, a terriffic soundtrack by long time collaborator Simon Fisher Turner, and the necessary references to the same political prisons Margret Tatcher was so eager to impose on the world.
In between these visual mosaics, Jarman directed videoclips (namely for The Petshop Boys) and low budget films, like the semi-biographies "Wittgenstein", "Carravagio" and the play "Edward II" - although strong in visuals and highly original and creative, they don't quite made history like Jarman's super 8mm collgage cinema, partly because narrative and plot may have gotten a bit in the way of total freedom and boundless means of expression.
Or to put it like this: the wish of kicking against the pricks must have somewhat been tempered by the obligation of logical storytelling.
Besides filmmaker, Jarman was a gifted painter, an art director and an obsessive gardener. The perfect, well dosed combination of all these individual talents leads to such mind startling, subversive cinema that makes up its own rules and lives and wrestles wildly within these confinements.
Maybe Jarman was in a way an autistic artist, working completely in his own world that was turning and raging across the universe, driven by the power of pure anger; Jarman was a homosexual in the oppressive Tatcher-times. And to be homosexual then and there meant to be excluded, and exclusion meant discrimination. Jarmans talents to Create was his means to cause minor revolutions, and whether or not these revolutions only took place on the white screen didn't really seem to matter. As long as he had the chance to express and direct his anger.
It's a kind of mutiny without the oppressors being present themselves.
So here is "The last of England", in my book the quintessential Derek Jarman. Sublime poetica, movie making at its purest on all levels. ART in all capitals. Not to understand rationally but more subconsciously. Perhaps the way real cinema should.
The amazing, underappreciated Derek Jarman
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 05/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Derek Jarman is probably one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated filmmakers ever in the history of British cinema. He made very artistic, personal films in the 1980's, a decade not known for its dedication to cinematic (or any kind of) art. This, along with The Garden, are, in my opinion, his 2 best films. Shooting freely in video, super 8, 16mm, and 35mm, he creates his own fantastical universe. He is as big as an auteur as Fellini, Tarkovsky, Greenaway, etc., etc.. It's an amazing universe, as fantastic and as unique as anything in cinema. In this film, here is no dialogue, just narration, music, sound, and image. If there is a theme running through it, it's mostly about the dissolution of England under Margaret Thatcher, told from a very subjective and artistic viewpoint. Despite some flaws (certain scenes going on too long), the film remains a haunting, beautiful film. Jarman needs to be rediscovered. He's not very well known even in cinematic circles. He's mostly categorized under "queer cinema", which is misleading. Jarman was a homosexual, and was very involved in the politics of the UK towards gay rights. But there is so much more to him and his films. He was a novelist, painter, and poet as well. His films did deal with gay issues, but they didn't revolve around them. This is a great place to start with Jarman...
Poetry in the form of the moving image...
Grigory's Girl | 06/28/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can not say enough how incredible and perfectly poetic this film, Jarman's prose depicting modern England, dares to be. Buy it now or remain uninlightened."
Jarman's eroding England: "The Ice Age is Coming"
KerrLines | Baltimore,MD | 03/29/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The narrator speaks: " They say The Ice Age is coming...the weather has already changed. England dies a syncopated death. We must recreate ourselves. Our best minds are destroyed with a whimper. Can't you feel the days are getting shorter?" Thus, we are introduced to Derek Jarman's crumbling beloved England. "The death of the Middle-Class assures us this..." England. as seen through the 1987 eyes of experimental filmmaker Derek Jarman is at the brink of the Apocalypse; sense,reason,art,pleasure,memories all gone violently,erodingly,certainly in the wake of the "reign" of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Through startling imagery and soundtrack Jarman takes us through a collage of edited images, stills and jarring action to make us feel the hopelessness and despair of his feelings at seeing his country ruled by The Conservative Party. (I began to realize just HOW much I could identify with this film in my own feelings of late about the U.S.)
Simon Fisher's soundtrack ranges from a copped up version of Bach's "Prelude in C Major" to"Disco Death" and weaves in "The Skye Boat Song" as well as the Flamenco -guitared "Dramanda Gala" for full effect.
Two scenes tend to drag out IMO: the ballet dancer and Tilda Swinton's "Wedding". Both sent me into overkill mode, but the point Jarman in making is communicated
IT DOES MAKE YOU FEEL AND SEE WHAT HE SEES!!! I was quite moved, but find the scenes much too distracting to concentrate as often everything runs together into a whirling blur. THAT"S THE POINT. I get it, but this is not a Jarman film that I would readily visit again, ALTHOUGH I will say that I will never forget it. The images are THAT indelible...just not my favourite Jarman, that's all."