Derek Jarman (1942–1994) was one the most creative, idiosyncratic, and controversial artists to come out of Britain. Among his best-known films are fascinating, irreverent explorations of queer historical figures—Sebastiane (Frameline10), Caravaggio, Edward II, and Wittgenstein. In his bold version of Christopher Marlowe’s 400-year-old play Edward II—which Jarman claims to have “improved” on—he streamlines the plot to four main characters. The doomed Edward II, newly crowned as King of England, and his beloved but low-born Piers Gaveston, are absorbed in an obsessive love affair that alienates nobles and the church. His neglected and despairing queen, Isabella (Tilda Swinton, channeling Grace Kelly, Margaret Thatcher, and Dracula’s daughter), conspires with the ruthless military man Mortimer to dethrone him. Unfolding in spare, elegant tableaux, Jarman’s exploration of tragic love and social control foregrounds a repressed queer history and references contemporary militant struggles against state-supported homophobia. Including anachronisms such as Annie Lennox singing “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” the film was deemed “a modern (dare I say postmodern) masterpiece” by film scholar B. Ruby Rich.
This program launches Derek Jarman, Visionary, screening at the Pacific Film Archive Theater in July and August, co-presented by Frameline, and featuring a selection of Jarman’s remarkable films, including titles newly remastered by the BFI National Archive to mark the twentieth anniversary of his death (for information, visit Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive).
— Kathy Geritz
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Mostly British Film Festival
National AIDS Memorial Grove