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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Derek....a must see!, 15 Sep 2010
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Vincent Creelan "Vincebelfast" (Newtownards N Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Derek [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
I found this film a remarkable, informative and culturally enriching insight to a man's life, work, relationship to the world and people. It inspired me to seek out his unique film work and expand my horizons.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deserved but time is leveling this past period into oblivion, 3 July 2014
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This documentary tries to evoke Derek Jarman in his own time. It mostly uses excerpts from a few films (17 they say) and footage from Derek Jarman's own personal video and 8 mm library, mostly in this latter case what was used in Glitterbug. It also uses footage from an interview he gave at the end of his life before he was taken sick and some short sequences of him in his sickness. It also uses footage from various archives and sources about the fight of gays and lesbians in Great Britain to get rid of the segregationist rejection they were the victims of up to rather recently.

The documentary starts with some images from Derek Jarman's infancy with his parents and family. The text accompanying these images is by Tilda Swinton, narrated by the same with some images of her in Present day London or at Derek Jarman's cottage.

It sure is a tribute to the memory of this film maker, and it is deserved first because of his active participation in social issues like free sexual orientation as well as the more general question of social segregation. But the main interest is not at this level. The documentary enables us to define Derek Jarman as different from most film makers of his time. They used cinematographic technique along with a cinematographic vision. They were, and still are, contained, and some might say narrowly contained, in the film industry, the film technology and the film narrative genre.

Derek Jarman is at heart and in the deepest convictions of his mind a visual person who sees the world with the eyes of a painter and he makes his films with such an orientation, that has nothing sexual this time: he is painting the screen with his camera and editing bench. That's why he is so at ease with Caravaggio and why he reduces Wittgenstein to a purely visual image of a parrot in a cage itself in a cage with Wittgenstein imprisoned in it. That does not explain the thinking of the philosopher, or the genesis of this thinking, or even the relation between the philosopher, language, logic and the world. It only provides us with an image that is a visual metaphor of all the rest.

That makes Derek Jarman the British counterpart or equivalent of the American Andy Warhol, including his factory. Derek Jarman represents his generation and many of the things he did can only be evoked with nostalgia. That time is gone. A few films might yet survive because they reach beyond the simple direct evocation of the world in the 1960s-70s-80s, like Caravaggio, Sebastiane, maybe Wittgenstein. But even what he says about love is totally passé. Love cannot be reduced to sex. Love does not imply sex necessarily. Love is a mental, neuronal and sentimental passion, whereas sex is a hormonal desire and hunt.

That was a time when promiscuity was the norm, and we can think of the animated film Fritz the Cat to have an idea of how extreme that promiscuity could be, how tragic too when it becomes Zabriskie Point. At the same time in those years sexual orientation was a stake for those who wanted to define themselves as gay or lesbian, but after 1968, and even some time before, it was trendy and even a must in some social areas to be bisexual, to try both sides of the coin, to be ACDC. Today after the tragedy of AIDS we have discovered safe sex for everyone, because AIDS is not a question of sexual orientation, and we are reaching in some countries and even at the UN the point when sexual orientation is becoming a basic human right and one fundamental freedom that can be visible in public like all freedoms should be.

I will personally regret the quick image of Margaret Thatcher in connection with the political struggle around sexual freedom. She was moderate in many ways when Ronald Reagan purely declared AIDS to be a judgment and punishment from god against sodomites at a time when most states in the USA considered sodomy, including heterosexual, as a felony if not a crime. It is true to make that connection with Margaret Thatcher but it becomes circumstantial although the question is by far universal.

A good testimony about an artist who deserves it and a time that was so contradictory that it looks prehistoric if not even antediluvian. Was life really like that? Oh yes, but it does not speak to us any more. Happy were those who went through promiscuity and multi-orientation without getting sick, not to mention dying! But that was pure luck because we did not even think about it. We just did it and woke up oblivious and refreshed on the following morning: we picked our clothing, tried to dress before leaving and went back to life outside in the street, with a little bit of streaking across the front garden. In fact we do not remember those we had sex with so much. But we will never forget those we refused to have any intercourse with. The world was upside down and that does not mean it has straightened up, far from it.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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Derek [DVD] [2008]
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