I only recently learned that the singular British polymath artist Derek Jarman, director of Caravaggio, Blue, and Jubilee, directed a bunch of music videos in the 1980s, including several for The Smiths and Pet Shop Boys, which is a perfect fit when you think about it.
The Smiths, “Ask”
This 12-minute short movie, already tackled for DM by Paul Gallagher in 2012, is called The Queen Is Dead—basically it’s three videos strung together for the title track, “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” and “Panic”:
Both of Jarman’s videos for Pet Shop Boys were for their second album, Actually.
This is probably the last TV interview Derek Jarman gave to the BBC. It was recorded in August 1993 for the series Edinburgh Nights, a magazine program that reviewed theatrical productions, movies and exhibitions from across the Festival. I’d worked on the show twice before, but this time I was back to direct only one item: an interview with Jarman.
On a quiet Sunday morning, in a small hotel situated at the end of a long Georgian terrace, we sat in a cramped front room with a view onto cobbled streets and lush green gardens hemmed in by a black iron fence. The room was cluttered, not an ideal location, but we were on quick-turn-around: shoot it, edit it, get it out.
I hadn’t seen Derek in four years. The last time was during a summer in Glasgow where he had been exhibiting at the Third Eye Center. He seemed happy, dressed in a blue boiler suit and we wandered around a park where we filmed an interview with Derek talking to Richard Jobson about The Pet Shops Boys, films, AIDs and sexual politics. Now it was heart-breaking to see him again, this beautiful, brilliant man dressed in orange and pink and yellow, in vibrant contrast to the ravaging effects of his illness.
Jarman was in Edinburgh to screen his latest film, Blue, a single-shot movie of saturated color (Yves Klein blue), over which actors read extracts from his diary detailing the weeks Derek had spent in hospital, blind as a result of an eye infection caused by HIV. The diary formed the backbone to Blue, from which stories branched out—a film he described as “a sort of Schererazade.” Though it was an intimate portrait of his illness, there was no self-pity for as usual, Jarman was only thinking of others:
”I wanted to convey some of what I’d seen, and the disaster of which I’ve been living through of the last few years. I mean for instance, last Thursday, I was in the hospital, and there was a mom with a two-year-old child who’s got the same infection in the eyes as I have, I couldn’t… I sat and watched as I waited, it was just quite terrible, honestly, you know, I was thinking of this child, you know, that’s all happening and people don’t see it, and they don’t think about it very often, and I hope the film sort of makes people think about that just for a moment.”
Blue was Derek Jarman’s twelfth and final feature film, for which he won the Michael Powell Award at that year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. It was a much deserved (if late) reward, but as I left to rush back to an edit, I still felt that we had all failed to truly appreciate the man’s genius.
Arguably experimental filmmaker/pioneering AIDS activist/general genius Derek Jarman’s best known feature length work (one could easily make a good case for Caravaggio), Jubilee transports Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre, The Passenger) 400 years into the future via the machinations of John Dee, played here by Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien - fittingly enough as he’s the one who taught us to do the Time Warp, after all - into a mid-‘70s Britain steeped in punk nihilism.
Era underground icons like Toyah Wilcox, Wayne County, Adam Ant, mime artist Lindsay Kemp, Jordan (AKA Pamela Rooke, one-time shop assistant at Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX boutique and briefly Adam Ant’s manager), The Slits and O’Brien’s former Rocky Horror colleague “Little” Nell Campbell serve in the cast, and the soundtrack features most of the foregoing, plus Siouxsie and The Banshees and Brian Eno. The film has had a typically fantastic Criterion release, and as such, it’s available for viewing on HuluPlus. Or, if you like, just watch it here, thoughtfully subtitled en español. Or maybe it’s Portugese, what do I know?
‘Hello. I’m writing in my diary about James Anderton. What a ghastly man.’
‘He’s saying we’re living in a cesspit of our making. I mean, how absurd. What a horrid little man. How the supposed Chief Constable of Manchester can say such vile things. It just makes me more determined, you know what I mean? I want to make a film about it.’
Film was personal and political for Jarman. While most most cinema during the 1980s was vacuous, empty, full of sound and fury, Jarman made films that were infused with his life, his thoughts, his passions, his politics—even the biopic Caravaggio mixed-in elements from his life to that of the Renaissance artist.
Jarman was a painter who made movies.
In the Shadow of the Sun is an extraordinary collaboration between Derek Jarman and Throbbring Gristle. It is a more personal work for Jarman, which mixes elements from 3 of Jarman’s Super-8 movies: Journey to Avebury (1971), Tarot (aka The Magician) (1972) and Fire Island (1974), into a dream-like film, filled with magick and ritual, which Throbbing Gristle’s music matches perfectly.
In the Shadow of the Sun was premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 1980. It contains many of Jarman’s favorite leitmotifs—mirrors, fires, dance—which he returned to again in the more political, The Last of England.
When asked how he felt about the fact he’d received £400,000 to make Caravaggio in 1986, and the director of Chariots of Fire, Hugh Hudson had received 4 million to make his film, Derek Jarman replied, ‘Fortunately, I’m one hundred times more intelligent than Hugh Hudson, so it doesn’t matter.’
It certainly didn’t matter as Jarman’s output, during his 20-year career, pisses from a great height on Hudson’s work. What Jarman would have made of this year’s London Olympics, with its recurring reference to Chariots of Fire, would certainly have been interesting. Yet, Jarman was never fooled by his position as an outsider, he was well aware that there ‘is a complicity between the avant-garde and the establishment, it’s symbiotic, they need each other,’ as he explained to Peter Culshaw in the NME, April, 1986.
‘..all avant-garde gestures have been appropriated by just those people they sought to undermine. Dada was conceived as a full-scale assault and now Dada sells for millions. But what people never point out about me is that I’m probably the most conservative film-maker in the country. I’m not talking about Thatcherite-radical conservatives, who are anti-traditional and destructive, and who see progress as heaven, I mean more like the conservatism of groups like the Green Party.’
The artist Caravaggio fascinated Jarman, because ‘he was the most inspired religious painter of the Middle Ages and was also a murderer.’
‘Imagine if Shakespeare had been a murderer - it would completely alter the way we see his plays. [Caravaggio] was particularly taken to heart by the Romans because he painted real people. The girl next door was Mary Magdalen. Or in Death of a Virgin he painted a well-known prostitute as a virgin. It was the equivalent of Christine Keeler being put up over the high altar at Westminster Abbey.’
Jarman felt a tremendous parallel between Caravaggio and his own life, and he believed that ‘the cinema of the product precludes individual voices…’
‘...and I think unless one can put one’s own voice into a film, then there’s an element of dishonesty in it.’
In this short interview Derek Jarman talks about his life and films, Caravaggio, The Last of England and War Requiem, taken from Spanish TV’s Metropolis from 1989.
As Britain prepares for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Her Majesty, here is The Queen is Dead - Derek Jarman’s Super 8 film triptych (made in collaboration John Maybury, Richard Heslop and Chis Hughes) for 3 classic tracks by The Smiths: “The Queen is Dead,” “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” and “Panic.”
Inner city angst, urban decay, alienation, cute hairstyles, and lots of hand held camera work, well it was the eighties.
Curtain up on a starry night. Comets fire across the sky. Center stage, one star shines more brightly than the rest, its spotlight points towards a globe of the earth, as it spins form a thread. Glitter falls, as a white screen rises, the lights glow brighter filling the stage.
Single spot tight on a woman’s face
We are unsure if she is in pain or ecstasy. No movement until, at last, she exhales, then pants quickly, rhythmically. Her face glistens. The spot widens, revealing 2 nurses, dressed in starched whites, symmetrically dabbing her face.
The woman is Mrs. Kemp, and she is about to give birth. 3 mid-wives are guided by house lights through the audience to her bedside. Each carries a different gift: towels, a basin of hot water, and swaddling.
It’s May 3rd 1938, and Lindsay Kemp is about to be born.
Though this maybe a fiction, it is all too believable, for nothing is unbelievable when it comes to Lindsay Kemp.
Lindsay Kemp has agreed to give a telephone interview. He is to be called at his home in Italy, by Paul Gallagher from Dangerous Minds, who is based in Scotland. We never hear the interviewer’s questions, only Kemp’s answers and see his facial expressions as he listens to questions.
Photographs of Kemp’s career appear on screens. We hear a recording of his voice.
I began dancing the same as everybody does, at birth. The only difference was, unlike many other people, I never stopped. In other words, you know, I love movement. Movement gave me such a great pleasure, such a great joy.
Dance is really my life. I’ve always said for me ‘Dance is Life, Dance is Living, Dance is Life and Life is Dance’. I’ve never really differentiated between the two of them. It’s always been a way of life, a kind of celebration of living.
Kemp is an exquisite dancer, a fantastic artist, and a brilliant visual poet. No hyperbole can truly capture the scale of his talents.
In the 1960s and 1970s, his dance group revolutionized theater with its productions of Jean Genet’s The Maids, Flowers and Oscar Wilde’s Salome.
He shocked critics by working with non-dancers. At the Traverse Theater in Edinburgh, he often cast his productions by picking-up good-looking, young men in Princes Street Gardens - good looks, an open mind and passion for life were more important than learned techniques, or a classical training. His most famous collaborator was the blind dancer, Jack Birkett, aka The Great Orlando – perhaps now best known for his role as Borgia Ginz in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee.
Kemp was the catalyst who inspired David Bowie towards cabaret and Ziggy Stardust. He taught him mime, and directed and performed in Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from mars. He also taught Kate Bush, and choreographed her shows.
As an actor, he gave outrageous and scene-stealing performances in Jarman’s Sebastiane, Ken Russell’s Savage Messiah and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man.
“I’ve never really differentiated between dance and mime and acting and singing. I’ve always loved all aspects of performing, though I still can’t play the trumpet, but I’d like too. Well, it’s never too late to learn.”
He has performed across the world, from department stores in Bradford, through the Edinburgh Festival, the streets and cafes of Italy, to London’s West End and Broadway.
Kemp is a poetic story-teller, and his performances engage and seduce as much as the words that spill from tell such incredible tales. His voice moves from Dame Edith Evans (“A handbag!”) to a lover sharing intimacies under the covers.
A house in Livorno. A desk with a telephone. A chaise longue. A deck chair and assorted items close at hand. Posters and photographs of Kemp in various productions are back-projected onto gauze screens.
Kemp makes his entrance via a trap door.
The phone rings once. Kemp looks at it.
Rings twice. Kemp considers it.
Rings three times. He answers it.
Lindsay Kemp is on the ‘phone.
Hello. (Pause.) Where are you in Scotland?
My grandparents are from Glasgow. I always pretend to be Scottish because I was born accidentally in Liverpool when my Mother was saying bye-bye to my Father, who was a sailor, and he was off to sea from Liverpool’s port, you see.
Well, I don’t quite know where that came from, unless I said it one drunken night, maybe when I chose to be more romantic than Birkenhead, where I was in fact born. I was born in Birkenhead on May the 3rd, 1938, but my family hailed form Scotland, between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and for many years I lived in Edinburgh, when I returned there for the first performance of Flowers, that show that put me on the map, you know.
Lindsay Kemp> debuts his new production Histoire du Soldat (‘A Soldier’s Tale’) by Stravinsky on 5th May, in Bari, Italy. You can buy tickets for the World Premiere here.
Lindsay Kemp – The Last Dance is a film currently being made by Producer / Director Nendie Pinto-Duschinsky – check here for more information.
Punk may be long dead, but the interest in its music, ideas and artifacts continues. Over at the Independent, writer Michael Bracewell introduces a selection of photographs by Simon Barker, a former member of the legendary Bromley Contingent, the group of original Punks that included Siouxsie Sioux, Steven Severin, Jordan, Bertie “Berlin” Marshall, Tracie O’Keefe, and Billy Idol. Barker was a participant and witness to some of the key events during the 14 months, in 1976 and 1977, when Punk changed everything - as Bracewell explains:
[Barker’s] photographs share with Nan Goldin’s early studies of the New York and Boston sub-cultures of the 1970s, a profound and joyously audacious sense of youth going out on its own into new freedoms and new possibilities.
In this, Barker’s photographs from this period capture a moment when the tipping point between innocence and experience has yet to be reached. The model and sub-cultural celebrity Jordan, for example, is photographed as a self-created work of art – her features resembling a Picasso mask, her clothes more post-war English county librarian. The provocation of her image remains untamed and unassimilated, nearly 40 years later; and within her surrealist pose there is the triumph of art made in the medium of sub-cultural lifestyle.
Barker/Six was a member of the so-called ‘Bromley Contingent’ of very early followers of The Sex Pistols and the retail and fashion work of McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. Other members would include the musicians Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin, and the writer Bertie Marshall, then known as ‘Berlin’ in homage to the perceived glamour and decadence of the Weimar republic. Originating from suburbia, but all determined to leave its security as soon as possible, the Bromley Contingent became the British sub-cultural equivalent, in many ways, of Andy Warhol’s notorious ‘superstars’ – volatile, at times self-destructive or cruelly elitist, but dedicated to a creed of self-reinvention and personal creativity.
It is this creed, as opposed to the swiftly commercialised music of punk, that Barker’s photographs from the period anatomise so well. At once intimate and forensic, austere and camp, documentary and touchingly elegiac, these photographs capture a milieu experiencing a heroic sense of being outsiders – a condition that has always been the privilege of youth, and which has long claimed many victims in its enticing contract with the thrill of taking an oppositional stance.
Read the whole article and see more of Simon’s photographs here.
Simon Barker’s book Punk’s Dead is available here.
The Banshees: Steven Severin, Kenny Morris and John McKay
More than an artist, Duggie Fields has been an Art Movement over the past 5 decades. His paintings, films, animation, photography, music, and design, have been at the pioneering edge of British Art and Culture. And he has collaborated with the likes of Ken Russell, Stanley Kubrick, Derek Jarman, and Andrew Logan.
In the 1990s, Mr Fields devised a new Philosophy of Art - MAXIMALism, which he described as “minimalism with a plus, plus, plus” and “the individual use to create chaos out of order and vice versa”. As Mr Fields developed his MAXIMAList Art Works, he produced a series of short art films and music videos. This is one of those many gems, THE BIG RIDDLE from 1993, written by Fields, with music co-written with Howard Bernstein, and directed by Mark Le Bon.
It’s around this time that the enthusiasm started almost a month ago begins to wane, and the pages of the diary remain blank, as days dissolve into weeks. Keeping a diary is hard work, but it is rewarding work. If you’ve started a diary and want a little encouragement to keep going, or even just to start writing, then here is a personal selection of diary and journal writers, who may inspire.
Sylvia Plath kept a diary throughout her life, which reveals a world beyond her poetry. Here is Sylvia setting out on her adventures as a writer, from November 13th 1949.
As of today I have decided to keep a diary again - just a place where I can write my thoughts and opinions when I have a moment. Somehow I have to keep and hold the rapture of being seventeen. Every day is so precious I feel infinitely sad at the thought of all this time melting farther and farther away from me as I grow older. Now, now is the perfect time of my life.
In reflecting back upon these last sixteen years, I can see tragedies and happiness, all relative - all unimportant now - fit only to smile upon a bit mistily.
I still do not know myself. Perhaps I never will. But I feel free – unbound by responsibility, I still can come up to my own private room, with my drawings hanging on the walls…and pictures pinned up over my bureau. It is a room suited to me – tailored, uncluttered and peaceful…I love the quiet lines of the furniture, the two bookcases filled with poetry books and fairy tales saved from childhood.
At the present moment I am very happy, sitting at my desk, looking out at the bare trees around the house across the street… Always want to be an observer. I want to be affected by life deeply, but never so blinded that I cannot see my share of existence in a wry, humorous light and mock myself as I mock others.
Playwright Joe Orton filled his diaries with his sexual escapades, and vignettes of the strangeness of the world, from January 18th 1967.
On the bus going home I heard a most fascinating conversation between an old man and woman. “What a thing, though,” the old woman said. “You’d hardly credit it.” “She’s always made a fuss of the whole family, but never me,” the old man said. “Does she have a fire when the young people go to see her?” “Fire?” “She won’t get people seeing her without warmth.” “I know why she’s doing it. Don’t think I don’t,” the old man said. “My sister she said to me, ‘I wish I had your easy life.’ Now that upset me. I was upset by the way she phrased herself. ‘Don’t talk to me like that,’ I said. ‘I’ve only got to get on the phone and ring a certain number,’ I said, ‘to have you stopped.’” “Yes,” the old woman said, “And you can, can’t you?” “Were they always the same?” she said. “When you was a child? Can you throw yourself back? How was they years ago?” “The same,” the old man said. “Wicked, isn’t it?” the old woman said. “Take care, now” she said, as the old man left her. He didn’t say a word but got off the bus looking disgruntled.
More diaries from Jack Kerouac, Emily Carr, John Cheever, and Andy Warhol, after the jump…
Glitterbug was Derek Jarman’s final film, compiled from the many hours of Super 8 footage he had shot throughout his life. Originally made in 1994 for the BBC’s Arena. arts strand, Glitterbug is a visual journal that ties together aspects of Jarman’s life from the 1970s to 1990s.
The film opens with the artist awakened by the memory of dreams, of lovers, of friends, of place - Jarman’s lofts on Bankside, Upper Ground, the Thames River; of self, shaving, washing, breakfasting - those small rituals that prepare the day, the structuring of artifice and order. The world outside, My Tea Shop, the day-time existence, Jarman’s curiosity for the world around him. Then at night another world, we see preparation for Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World, returning to day, a garden party, is this Andrew Logan singing as Little Nell Campbell dances? Duggie Fields watches, Jarman films.
The dreamer sleeps, travels to the country, Van Gogh fields, standing stones, the memory of place, absence of others, a white-washed cottage room, the creation of art, the structuring of order.
The dreamer awake, and we are now watching Jarman at work, Sebastiane, the sea flecked gold, the actors at play, legs entwined. An office, an apartment, ‘phone calls, then filming the artist Duggie Fields, his designs, his face, a prelude to Jubilee, a young flame-haired Toyah Willcox, The Sex Pistols, Jordan and a dress rehearsal for what will become The Last of England, as she pirouettes around a burning Union Jack, Adam Ant, hair-cutting, the Silver Jubilee.
Jarman is showing us the sketches for preparation, the themes he returned to throughout his life. Rome, ritual, the research for Caravaggio, punk, the art of mirrors, The Slits, William Burroughs, Gensis P. Orridge, Throbbing Gristle, Jarman’s fascinations and obsessions, his idols and co-conspirators. The ritual of sharing tea, sharing cigarettes, a shared communion, youthful faces, sun flecked, smiling in the sun, a future ahead, too often cut short by the frost, this the last summer they danced on the rooftop, ‘Here I am, here are my secrets,’ he is saying, as we plunder through his film diaries, Super 8 scrapbook, glittering trinket chest, memory is what makes us, what sometimes betrays us, what gives us the love we have to share, returning to the Thames, the friends, the lovers, those living, those dead.
Glitterbug Derek Jarman’s Super 8 films, with Andrew Logan, Duggie Fields, Tilda Swinton, Michael Clark, Adam Ant, Toyah Willcox, William Burroughs and Genesis P. Orridge. Music by Brian Eno, specially commissioned for this film.
The summer of 1988, I was working as a researcher on a live lunchtime magazine show, shown on the BBC. Its audience was mainly moms, grannies, students and the unemployed. I’d just spent three-and-a-half years unemployed, so was now having a royal blast. Part of the joy was bringing a little anarchy to the show. Each week, when I suggested the show’s guest music acts, I’d slip in a few bands (Die Krupps, Cowboy Junkies, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds) that would be lucky to get a mention on Yoof programming, let alone this anodyne day time chat show.
Two things stick from that summer - Joan Jett judging an air guitar competition; and the day I booked Pop Will Eat Itself to play in front of an audience of the over-sixties.
Each week I had to find one band for a studio performance, the acts ranged from the guff the record companies forced on us, to the mavericks, who mainly came form indie labels. One week a VHS arrived on my desk, “Def Con One” by Pop Will Eat Itself. Along with Cave’s “Mercy Seat”, it was one of the best things I heard that summer. It was a beaut, with its samples of The Stooges, Lipps Inc., The Osmonds and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. And the icing was the accompanying video - directed by artist and film-maker Richard Heslop, who had worked Derek Jarman on The Last of England.
PWEI came out of Stourbridge, England, in the mid-eighties, and after a few different line-ups settled on Clint Mansell, Adam Mole, Graham Crabb and Richard March. The name came form an article in the NME by David Quantick. In July 1988, PWEI pulled up in a van at our temporary studio in the heart of a Garden Festival. They arrived with only backing tapes, loud hailer, guitars and drum-riser - to jump around on - went straight into the studio and let rip with “Def Con One” to a stunned silver-haired audience. It was a moment of sheer anarchic delight. Unable to find a video of that performance, this will give you an idea of what PWEI were like in front of an audience, but just imagine it being coffin dodgers in search of a seat on a hot summer’s day.
Pop Will Eat Itself was well-ahead of its time, and its members more talented than we thought them to be - Clint Mansell now writes brilliant soundtracks for movies like Requiem for a Dream, Moon, The Wrestler and Black Swan
Without much ado, here then is Richard Heslop’s original promo for “Def Con One”. Enjoy.
“a dream world, a world of magic and ritual, yet there are images there of the burning cars and radar systems, which remind you there is a price to be paid in order to gain this dream in the face of a world of violence.”
The sonnets are read by Judi Dench, and the soundtrack is by Coil.
Bonus footage of Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, along with David Tibet, Othon Mataragas and Ernesto Tomasini, performing soundtrack to ‘The Angelic Conversation’ from 2008, after the jump…
First look at the new documentary film, The British Guide to Showing Off, which celebrates Andrew Logan, artist, living legend and creator of the outrageous, anarchic and always spectacular Alternative Miss World Show.
The Alternative Miss World Show, is a pageant and fancy dress party for grown ups, launched back in 1972, it has involved the participation from the likes of Derek Jarman, Divine, Duggie Fields, Leigh Bowery, David Hockney, Richard O’Brien Zandra Rhodes, Molly Parkin, Angie Bowie and Grayson Perry over the years
“In The British Guide to Showing Off, director Jes Benstock takes us under Logan’s glittering wing to take a joyous look at this most quirky and exotic subculture event.