Derek Jarman

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The Last Of England Review


Terrible
"Impressionistic" doesn't have to mean "bad" -- but when the images are disjointed, clichéd, and disgusting, it pretty much does. The Last of England, an experimental film by the late Derek Jarman, begins with a man masturbating on a poster and goes downhill from there. The images include sequences of terrorists holding hostages (but we never find out who they are), kids standing on piles of rubble, a bride cutting her wedding dress with a pair of scissors, homoerotic (but not very erotic) sex scenes, and a pale, skinny naked man eating a dead bird. It's graphic and disorienting, yet also totally trite.

In the early part of the film, a narrator solemnly intones Eliot-like observations about the decline of England, post-industrial anomie, growing up in the Midland suburbs, or whatever. He rages against the upper class, the bureaucracies, or who knows what. Maybe The Last of England is supposed to be a comment about Thatcher (after decades of socialism, the British Left somehow managed to blame Thatcher for rampant unemployment and poverty). But it's hard to infer anything from endless, out-of-focus looped footage of demolished buildings and dancing drag queens. The title's right, though. If this film is any indication, the country that produced the Industrial Revolution, Newton, Darwin and Shakespeare is barely registering a cultural pulse.

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Edward II Review


Excellent
British director Derek Jarman raged against the dying of the light. In the years just before before he died of AIDS in 1994 at the age of 52, he did some of his most inventive and daring work. None of his final movies is more fascinating than Edward II, his adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's 16th-century play about the royal intrigue surrounding one of England's legendarily bad monarchs.

Jarman keeps the language but takes the story out of its 14th-century timeframe, fills it with anachronisms, presents it with minimal sets against a black background, and turns it into a furious rant against the homophobia of the Thatcher-era England of the '80s and early '90s. Though Marlowe wrote a gay subtext into his play, Jarman moves it up front: Edward is gay, he gives too much power to his gay lover, and they both have to be destroyed before things get out of hand.

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Aria Review


Bad
Every decade or so, those wacky independents try this stunt -- getting a bunch of Big Name Directors together to make a collaborative movie. Invariably, it sucks (see Lumiere and Company), but rarely does it suck so hard as it does in Aria.

The conceit this time: Each director takes a piece of classical music and sets it to film -- mostly without dialogue and invariably without any sense whatsoever.

Continue reading: Aria Review

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Edward II Movie Review

Edward II Movie Review

British director Derek Jarman raged against the dying of the light. In the years just...

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