Surprisingly it was porn that first brought me to Derek Jarman. Idly browsing through the pages of the soft core magazine Cinema Blue, one summer’s afternoon in the late 1970s, I was struck by a photo-spread on a what seemed to be a toga-and-orgy film called Sebastiane.
It caught my interest because of Jarman’s association with my then favorite director, Ken Russell, and I knew of Jarman’s design work on The Devils (where he created the austere, white tiled sets, that befitted author Aldous Huxley’s description of “The exorcism of sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave n the film), [as the] equivalent to rape in a public lavatory”) and gritty realism of Savage Messiah. Now, he had made his first feature film about frisbee-throwing Roman centurions romping around Sardinia. The script, the article explained, was spoken in schoolboy Latin (“Oedipus” was slang for “motherfucker”), and a had cast that included dance legend Lindsay Kemp, the artist Duggie Fields, as well as Peter Hinwood and Little Nell from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the boyish Richard Warwick best known from If…, and the idyllic TV series Brensham People.
Cinema Blue explained this film should not be dismissed as just a skin flick, as there was considerable artistry and a fine intelligence working behind the scenes. Even so, it never quite escaped the hint of notoriety, as the film included strong language, scenes of explicit love-making and most controversially an erect penis—which was visible when the film was screened on TV. This insured Sebastiane was knowingly whispered about in the schoolyard.
I checked the listings, but Sebastiane was not being screened at any local cinemas. Therefore, I had to wait until Jarman’s next film, Jubilee, to start a love affair with his work.
In March 1978, Films and Filming featured Adam Ant, the star of Derek Jarman’s second feature Jubilee, on its cover. Inside was a glossy 4-page photo spread, with a brief synopsis of the film:
Directed by Derek Jarman, from an original screenplay by James Whaley and Jarman, about a gang of girls fighting for survival on the streets of London in the near future. With Jenny Runacre, Little Nell, Jordan, Toyah Wilcox, Bermmine Demoriane, Iaan Charleson, Karl Johnson and Adam Ant. Music by Adam and the Ants, Siouxsie and the banshees, Chelsea, Wayne County and the Elecrtric Chairs, Suzi Pinns and Brian Eno. Produced by Howard Malin and James Whaley.
Here in all its grainy black and white glory is that original photo-spread.