a film by Derek Jarman
1978 | 100 mins | UK
›› Jubilee
a blatantly anti-establishment post-punk vision of England.
Jubilee by Derek Jarman You know, it's a funny old world. For you review films at different stages; pre-release, post-release and often at times when the original cinema screening is all but a distant memory. Well as-it-happens, it was thirty years ago today that the punk movement was at its height and now as echoes of punk fill the airwaves, I once again cast my eyes over what was arguably Britains' first punk movie.

For just as Derek Jarman's previous work Sebastiane had boldly gone where few directors had dared to go, once again Jarman delivered a film that was controversial by nature, if not in-your-face by design. For accompanied by her court astrologer John Dee and Lady in Waiting, here we witness Queen Elizabeth I travel to an England of the future, thanks to the work of the spirit Ariel. And put it this way, it's not a pretty sight.

Jubilee by Derek Jarman For to say that anarchy rules the UK would be an understatement. For this is a blatantly anti-establishment post-punk vision of England, one far removed from its Golden Age, laden as it is with violence and mass unemployment, complete with a blank generation who forgot to lead their lives. Monarchy is out, Buckingham Palace is all but a giant recording studio owned by a megalomaniac who has bought everything and everyone leaving a physical wasteland in his wake, one where kids get high on sex, crime and mindless acts of murder. The police are corrupt - chaos reigns - there is no future. Have you got the picture?

Yet between scenes of social degradation, two gay lads declare their love for each other, as female nudity, gives way to full frontal male nudity, which in turn makes way for a gay cabaret scene where just about anything goes. And that's the point, for this is a film in which you are left wondering where it is going, switching as-it-does from hardcore violence and here think suffocation, castration and petrol bombs, to a tender gardening sequence and even ballet.

Thankfully Richard O'Brien as John Dee, together with Jenny Runacre as both Punk Queen Bod and Queen Elizabeth I are on hand to hold things together. As too are many familiar faces, including Donald Dunham, Barney James and Neil Kennedy of times past, let alone Toyah Willcox and Karl Johnson of times still to be, having so impressed Jarman that they would star in his next work The Tempest. As too would Jack Birkett, hereby listed as Orlando, who wonderfully camps it up as Borgia Ginz; the man who has it all, only to pump up the volume so as to stop hearing the world falling apart.

As to what we do hear, well included in the mix are the sounds of Adam and the Ants' Plastic Surgery, Wayne County and the Electric Chairs' Paranoia Paradise, Siouxsie and the Banshees' Love in a Void, together with the punk production number renderings of Suzi Pinns' Jerusalem and Rule Britannia. Yet to say that the end result is an angry, often fragmented work that is as uncompromising as the punk movement was itself, is to state the obvious. For this is a film that you will either love or hate. And in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee, many chose the latter. But then, was that by way of design?
available on DVD as part of the Second Sight Films catalogue
starring: Jenny Runacre, Nell Campbell, Toyah Willcox, Jordan, Hermine Demoriane, Ian Charleson, Karl Johnson,
Linda Spurrier, Neil Kennedy, Jack Birkett, Wayne County, Richard O'Brien, David Brandon,
Helen Wellington-Lloyd, Adam Ant, Donald Dunham, Barney James
Copyright 2007 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #002
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