Derek Jarman was one of the most unique, artistic, and criminally neglected British filmmakers ever. He's hardly ever mentioned when British cinema is mentioned, yet his films are some of the most beguiling, fascinating, and moving films that the U.K. has ever produced. Jarman was also a painter, a writer, and a political activist. He was openly homosexual, and he campaigned for gay rights during a time when it wasn't hip to do so. He was part of Outrage, an English gay rights organisation. Sadly, Derek Jarman passed away from AIDS complications in 1994, leaving behind a massive amount of stunning work that hasn't dated at all. It's nice to see someone finally make a documentary about Derek, as he deserves to be better known, but the documentary is really only for those who are already familiar with Jarman's work (like me).
The film is very good in that it consists of mostly home footage of Jarman, his family, his home movies, clips from his films, and a long interview segment that is edited throughout the film. Jarman comes across as a really wonderful, witty, and artistic man (which he was). The filmmaker lets Jarman speak for himself, which I like very much, but the segments with Tilda Swinton are very dry and borderline dull. I find it rather sad that the director didn't do more with Tilda, as Tilda was one of the producers on this film and also wrote and narrated it. It was Derek Jarman who really discovered her, and it's apparent than Tilda still misses her mentor very much. Many entertainment reporters never mention that Swinton got her start when Jarman cast her in his films. Jarman is quite extraordinary in that I have never heard a bad word spoken about him by anyone. Even the cranky Ken Russell, a great filmmaker but someone who had a difficult personality, spoke glowingly about Jarman and his work as production designer on Russell's still controversial film The Devils. Unfortunately, Russell isn't interviewed here, but I met Ken at a screening of The Devils last Halloween, and he talked about Jarman in such glowing, warm terms, as if he were still alive. It was actually quite moving, and when Jarman's name appeared on the credits of the film, he was appaulded.
I would recommend this film to anyone interested in Jarman's work, and then rent The Last of England, Jubilee, Caravaggio, and Blue. Then rent the rest of his filmography.