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The Last Of England Review

"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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The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle Review

Malcolm McLaren is a dirty sot. He wants it that way, his public life - as far as he sees it - was nothing more than a street performance, a theatre of the absurd for the jaded masses. As manager of the decisive (and many argue, last) punk band, the Sex Pistols, McLaren took the envelope and literally kicked it out the window. And here, in an outlandish collage by film student Julian Temple, he foists upon the audience the novel idea that the whole Sex Pistols "scene" was a ruse, a scam, a swindle, to make a ton of dough. McLaren asserts that he ran the show and that the Pistols were a bunch of talentless losers. Now that's punk, baby!

Ah, but McLaren is lying through his teeth when he tells us that. In The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle the line between documentary and fiction, truth and lie, becomes so blurred that it becomes unnecessary.

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Aria Review

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.

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