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Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations

Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations

Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations
    Book Description:

    Best known as an iconoclastic, wildly inventive filmmaker, Derek Jarman was also an accomplished author, painter, and landscape artist. In Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations, Jim Ellis considers Jarman’s wide-ranging oeuvre to present a broad perspective on the career and life of one of the most provocative, engaged, and important artists of the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7053-6
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION Getting History Wrong
    (pp. vii-xxii)

    In an entry ofModern Naturedated April 4, 1989, Derek Jarman records a conversation with Mrs. Oiller, a ninety-four-year-old fellow inhabitant of Dungeness: “She tells me one sunny afternoon she saw two men fall out of a plane in a still blue sky, remain suspended in the azure while she held her breath, before they plummeted out of sight behind the holly bushes at Holmstone.” On June 1 of the same year, the novelist Neil Bartlett visits Jarman at his cottage: “When I told him old Mrs. Oiller’s story of the two men falling from a plane in a...

  4. ONE Artistic and Sexual Revolutions
    (pp. 1-16)

    Although Jarman’s fame came as a filmmaker, painting was his first and most enduring passion. His accounts of his public school days mention the art master’s studio as a space of refuge and furious productivity, and he had his first solo exhibition in 1960, at the age of eighteen.¹ While pursuing a degree in English literature at King’s College, University of London, he continued to paint landscapes, and won the award for “amateur” painting in the Student Union’s annual exhibition in 1961 (David Hockney won the award that year for the art students). He subsequently studied painting and set design...

  5. TWO Liberation, Space, and the Early Films
    (pp. 17-48)

    Rowland wymer has observed that “there is a critical consensus that Jarman’s early short films were crucial to his development as a director, but there is less of a consensus about how valuable they are as autonomous works of art.”¹ One answer to this conundrum is to argue that the films were not initially conceived as autonomous works of art, but rather only as elements of larger artistic productions, the countercultural events at which they were shown. The super-8s, which Jarman called his home movies, participated in a redefinition of home and family, documenting the new spaces and scenes in...

  6. THREE The Elizabethan Future
    (pp. 49-88)

    If Sebastiane is Jarman’s version of Pasolini’sGospel According to St. Matthew, then Jarman’s next film,Jubilee, is perhaps hisSalo. Pasolini’s last feature,Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom(1975), premiered at the Locarno festival alongsideSebastiane. In his final film Pasolini turned away from the sunny portrayal of sexuality in his Trilogy of Life to a violent, pessimistic view of human behavior, setting de Sade’s in famous novel in Fascist Italy.Jubilee, similarly, is an angrier, darker, more violent film than its predecessor; in it, Jarman picks up the anarchic politics of punk to offer a critique...

  7. FOUR The Caravaggio Years
    (pp. 89-132)

    After the early successes in independent film, making three features in four years, came a period of relative quiet. Jarman started writing the script forCaravaggioin Rome, in May 1978, following the premiere ofJubileeat Cannes. There would be about sixteen subsequent drafts of the screenplay, with at least three substantially different approaches to the story.Caravaggiowould not be released until 1986, although two other films of note,Imagining October(1984) andThe Angelic Conversation(1985), would appear in the intervening years. There was also a renewed interest in painting, including shows at the B2 Gallery in...

  8. FIVE Thatcherism, AIDS, and War
    (pp. 133-168)

    Jarman was diagnosed as HIV positive in December 1986.Caravaggiowas his last work of art not to be marked in some way by the epidemic. Although they are by no means limited to the subject of AIDS, the films, books, garden, paintings, and installations that followed together offer a sustained and complex meditation on the effects of the disease on Jarman, his community, and the British nation.

    The works discussed in this chapter constitute a first response to the combined trauma of HIV and Thatcherite homophobia, althoughThe Last of Englandwas filmed (but not finished) before Jarman knew...

  9. SIX Time and the Garden
    (pp. 169-198)

    In 1986, Jarman purchased an old fisherman’s house, called Prospect Cottage, in Dungeness. Located in the southeast corner of England, “Dungeness is set apart, at ‘the fifth quarter’, the end of the globe; it is the largest shingle formation, with Cape Canaveral, in the world,” according to Jarman.¹ A protected environmental site, the ness is rather desolate in appearance and constantly buffeted by strong winds. It is, according to an article in theNew Scientistmagazine, an “extremely harsh” habitat, and “only specialist plants can survive such rigorous conditions.”² Dungeness features some unusual freshwater pits, and is host to a...

  10. SEVEN Blindness and Insight
    (pp. 199-248)

    The final works I will consider are again a disparate group: another memoir, a book on color, published scripts, and three films, including an adaptation of an early-modern play, a biopic about a twentieth-century philosopher, and an experimental feature whose image track consists of an unwavering field of deep blue. In spite of the fact that the first two originated in scripts written by others, the three films pose a related set of questions, principally concerning an ethics of being. What constitutes an ethical life? What is one’s responsibility to others? Whether explicitly or implicitly, the questions are framed within...

  11. CODA The Raft of the Medusa
    (pp. 249-254)

    Death is undoubtedly a convenience for critics. There is an almost irresistible logic to seeingBlueas Jarman’s final statement on filmmaking instead of simply as his last completed film.Bluedoes seem to offer an emphatic and deeply fitting conclusion to Jarman’s career, the end point of an aesthetic, intellectual, and political journey that ends on this strangely exhilarating note. The press certainly saw the film that way, but then it had been in the habit of seeing each of his films as his final film for some time, something at which Jarman alternately bristled and laughed. In a...

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 255-256)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 257-278)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 279-292)
  15. Select Filmography of Derek Jarman
    (pp. 293-294)
  16. Index
    (pp. 295-304)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-305)