To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Film London Jarman Award, a special day of screenings by this singular, inspired and constantly relevant artist, writer and cultural activist. Focusing on Jarman’s final works – 1993’s Wittgenstein and Blue, along with posthumous short film compilation Glitterbug – and including Wittgenstein’s Producer Tariq Ali in conversation.
Thanks to James Mackay.
3.15pm Tariq Ali
3.45pm Tea and coffee break
Glitterbug (Derek Jarman, UK, 1993) 60 mins
A perfect companion piece to Blue, satisfyingly capping off the late English iconoclast’s screen work. This lissome montage of Jarman’s Super 8 footage fused with a multi-textured Brian Eno score constitutes a breathless journey taking in the director’s films, friends and favoured stomping grounds. It should be welcomed as a fitting final addition to his eclectic output. Associate director David Lewis and editor Andy Crabb worked with Jarman through the latter half of 1993 to distill Glitterbug from some 15 hours of home movies shot between 1970 and 1985. The film’s appropriateness as a farewell legacy derives from the intimate nature of the video-diary format and its affectionate chronicle of Jarman’s world prior to its gradual disfigurement by AIDS. It also achieves a yin-yang balance with Blue that enhances both films’ communicative power. – David Rooney, from Variety
Wittgenstein (Derek Jarman, UK, 1993) 69 mins
Jarman’s biopic brings to life the seriously eccentric philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: Viennese millionaire’s son, schoolteacher, WWI infantry officer, hospital porter, gardener, naturalised Briton and homosexual…. produced for the BFI by Tariq Ali from a script by Marxist professor Terry Eagleton… Thanks to genuinely engaging performances by Johnson and Chassay (as Ludwig, man and boy), as well as a witty script and economical direction, this turns treatise into treat. It’s shot on the simplest of sets against black backgrounds, with all the money spent on costumes, actors and lights, and framed like dark Enlightenment paintings. If it ranges wide rather than deep – the philosophy is either dropped into conversation or presented like a blackboard primer – Jarman still manages to capture the spirit and complexity of his fascinating subject. Of the entertaining cameos, Quentin’s epicene John Maynard Keynes (in a delightful series of pastel shirts) and Gough’s miffed Bertrand Russell are the most telling. – Wally Hammond, from Time Out
Blue (Derek Jarman, UK, 1993) mins
The screen is a perfect blue throughout as Derek Jarman faces up to AIDS, the loss of loved ones, the breakdown of the body, blindness, his own approaching fall into the void. The film embodies the spiritual transcendence which Cyril Collard sought to convey in the last reel of his anguished melodrama Savage Nights, crucially in the serene contemplation of the screen itself, but also in Jarman’s beautiful poetry. Extracts from the film-maker’s diary supply an ironic commentary on the ‘progress’ of his illness so that the movie becomes a juxtaposition between the finite and the infinite, the sublime and the ridiculous. Greatly helped by Simon Fisher Turner’s soundtrack. Moving beyond words. – Tom Charity, from Time Out
Tariq Ali has written more than two-dozen books on world history and politics—the most recent of which are The Clash of Fundamentalisms, The Obama Syndrome and The Extreme Centre—as well as the novels of his Islam Quintet and scripts for the stage and screen. He is a long-standing member of the editorial committee of New Left Review and lives in London.