Category Archives: LGBTQ+
Jubilee (1978) | Derek Jarman’s anarchic punk satire still stings after 40+ years
Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported forward in time by her court astrologer, John Dee (Richard O’Brien) to a shattered Britain of the 1970s, where the present Queen is dead, Buckingham Palace has been turned into a recording studio, and law and order have completely broken down. Moving through the city, Elizabeth observes a group of aimless nihilists, including Amyl Nitrite (Jordan), Bod (Runacre in a dual role), Chaos (Hermine Demoriane), Crabs (Nell Campbell), and Mad (Toyah Willcox)…
This notorious study of British punk culture from avant-garde director Derek Jarman has garnered a huge cult following over the years. But when it was first released (on 3 February 1978 in the UK), Vivienne Westwood famously created a T-shirt with an open letter to Jarman printed on it denouncing the film and his misrepresentations of punk. And when it got its first C4 screening, it was deemed ‘corrupting, pernicious filth’.
Today, Jubilee stands as one of the few British features of the late-1970s to capture on film performances and cameos from some of most iconic bands of the era, including Adam and the Ants, The Slits, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. And for that reason alone is why you should add the BFI’s 2018 Blu-ray to your collection. Featuring a 2K re-master from the original camera negatives, and presented in both HD and SD (on the DVD). A must-see over and over.
• A Message from the Temple (1981, 5 mins)
• Toyah Willcox: Being Mad (2014, 8 mins); the singer and actress looks back on her role in Jubilee
• Jordan remembers Jubilee (2018, 33 mins): punk icon Jordan looks back on her friendship with Derek Jarman and the making of Jubilee
• Lee Drysdale remembers Jubilee (2018, 17 mins): Derek Jarman’s friend, and later collaborator recalls his unconventional involvement in the making of Jubilee
• Jubilee image gallery
• Illustrated booklet featuring a contemporary review
Jarman – Volume Two (1987-1994) | The BFI presents six final features from the iconoclastic artist, plus 66 superlative special features, on Blu-ray
It has been 25 years since British filmmaker Derek Jarman died, aged 52 (on 19 February 1994), and yet his artistic legacy continues to live on. Embracing the experimental, the political and the artistic, his cinema was fearlessly unique but also touchingly personal and truly inspirational.
The BFI’s second Limited Edition Blu-ray collection brings together Jarman’s final six features, made during a prolonged burst of creativity and political activism that followed his HIV diagnosis in 1987, and all of them featuring his artistic muse, Tilda Swinton.
These include The Last of England (1987), War Requiem (1989) with Laurence Olivier in his last screen performance, The Garden (1990), Edward II (1993) with Steven Waddington, Wittgenstein (1993) with Michael Gough, Blue (1993) with composers Brian Eno, Coil, Scanner and Simon Fisher Turner, and the posthumously-released elegy to Super 8, Glitterbug (1994), with music from Brian Eno.
All the films are presented in High Definition for the first time in the UK, and the box-set includes 66 amazing special features – both new and archival, plus trailers, galleries of rare stills and promotional materials, and a 100-page collector’s. This truly is a must-have, and a perfect companion to the BFI’s first volume (1972-1986), which contains In the Shadow of the Sun (1974), Sebastiane (1976), Jubilee (1977), The Tempest (1979), The Angelic Conversation (1985) and Caravaggio (1986).
•••THE FILMS AND THOSE EXTRA FEATURES IN DETAIL•••
THE LAST OF ENGLAND
Jarman’s highly personal allegory of England in the 1980s. The film combines images of inner-city decay, footage from home movies of three generations of Jarman’s family and a post-apocalypse vision of London ruled by a para-military authority.
• Dead Cat (1989, 20 mins): Derek Jarman and Genesis P-Orridge feature in this startling surrealist film in which a young man is terrorised and humiliated, later engaging in a mechanised, industrial sexual encounter
• Isle of Sheppey (1984, 7 mins): edited highlights from a VHS video shot on a location-hunting expedition, featuring Derek Jarman and cultural historian Jon Savage
• Depuis le jour (1987, 5 mins): Derek Jarman’s sequence from the anthology film Aria
• Depuis le jour: audio commentary by producer Don Boyd
• Remembering Derek Jarman (2014, 13 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers The Last of England (2019, 14 mins)
• Don Boyd Remembers The Last of England and Aria (2019, 16 mins)
• Homemade Stuff and Wild Ideas: Simon Fisher Turner on Derek Jarman (2019, 16 mins): the composer looks back on his involvement with Derek Jarman’s art
• Another Derek: Jarman’s Life Away From the Limelight (2019, 5 mins): interview with artist filmmaker John Scarlett-Davis
• An Odd Morality (2019, 4 mins): interview with Lee Drysdale
• Another World for Ourselves (2019, 9 mins): director John Maybury on meeting Jarman
• David Lewis Remembers Dead Cat (2019, 15 mins)
• Audio commentary on The Last of England with James Mackay, Christopher Hughes, Christopher Hobbs and Simon Fisher Turner
A must-see for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in Benjamin Britten’s choral masterpiece, Jarman’s film interpretation includes readings of Wilfred Owen’s World War One poetry and disturbing images of wars since. Tragedy without the triumph, in other words. Features Nathaniel Parker (as Owen), Laurence Olivier, Sean Bean, Patricia Hayes and Nigel Terry.
• Books By My Bedside: Derek Jarman (1989, 25 mins)
• Derek Jarman in Conversation with Simon Field (1989, 32 mins)
• Requiem For Jarman (2008, 37 mins): recollections on the making of War Requiem
• Don Boyd Remembers War Requiem (2019, 38 mins)
• John Maybury Remembers War Requiem (2019, 8 mins)
• The Nature of Super 8 (2019, 8 mins)
• Caravaggio was Accidental (2019, 10 mins): Simon Fisher Turner remembers his first feature soundtrack for Derek Jarman
• Before The Last (2019, 15 mins): James Mackay recalls working with Derek Jarman on The Angelic Conversation and Imagining October
•Derek Jarman Presents (2019, 27 mins): John Maybury remembers the Super 8 filmmaking scene
• War Requiem trailer
· Audio commentary on War Requiem with Don Boyd
• War Requiem image gallery
In the last of three very personal films, Jarman used an explosive combination of scenes and images to bring together his loves, hates and desires – united by his imagery of the Passion.
• Derek’s Shoot in Dungeness (1990, 6 mins): rare behind-the-scenes Super 8 footage shot on location at the time of The Garden
• The Wanderer (1991, 30 mins): experimental film by David Lewis based on the Anglo-Saxon poem of the same name, featuring Michael Gough and Michael York
• Kiss 25 Goodbye (1991, 7 mins): experimental short on the 1991 OutRage! ‘kiss-in’ protest at Bow Street police station
• Clause and Effect (1988, 19 mins): the gay community unites against Clause 28
• Orange Juice (1984, 41 mins): Derek Jarman’s location shoot for the promo for ‘What Presence?!’ by post-punk band Orange Juice, fronted by Edwyn Collins
• Shooting the Hunter (2015, 5 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers The Garden (2019, 15 mins)
• Anything Can Happen (2019, 11 mins): Richard Heslop on working with Derek Jarman
• David Lewis Remembers The Garden (2019, 15 mins)
• The Other Great Masterpiece (2019, 6 mins): John Maybury considers Jarman’s enthusiasm for gardening
• The Garden trailers
• Life with Derek (2018, 44 mins): Composer Simon Fisher Turner’s collage of audio clips
Jarman’s trenchant sort-of-modern-dress adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s play about the downfall of the medieval monarch, richly-textured with atmosphere, but with the homosexual content expanded, embellished and politicised.
• Derek’s Edward (2009, 24 mins): the making of Edward II
• Ostia (1987, 27 mins): Jarman embodies Pier Paolo Pasolini in this ambitious student film imagining the last hours of the Italian director’s life
• Ostia director’s audio commentary
• The Clearing (1993, 7 mins): short film by Alex Bistikas starring Derek Jarman and Keith Collins
• The Extended Derek Jarman Interview (1991, 70 mins): With Colin McCabe
• Cut/Action (2019, 8 mins): Video essay with music and narration by Simon Fisher Turner
• David Lewis Remembers Edward II (2019, 4 mins)
• The Same Spirit (2019, 6 mins): Don Boyd remembers Jarman’s later years
• Truly Beautiful (2019, 19 mins): interview with costumer designer Sandy Powell
• Derek Jarman in Conversation with Colin McCabe (1991, 97 mins, audio only)
Jarman executed this critically-acclaimed Channel 4 film celebrating the life of Austrian-born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in just two weeks (on a tiny £300,000 budget). Visually stunning, with some fantastic costumes (from Sandy Powell), it explores Wittgenstein’s repressed homosexuality alongside his reputation as one of greatest thinkers of the century, and features Michael Gough and John Quentin as Bertrand Russell and Maynard Keynes.
• Karl Johnson on Wittgenstein (2007, 9 mins)
• Tilda Swinton on Wittgenstein and Derek Jarman (2007, 10 mins)
• Tariq Ali on Producing Wittgenstein (2007, 9 mins)
• Wittgenstein: Behind the Scenes (1993, 22 mins)
• Wittgenstein: An Introduction (2007, 4 mins)
• Face to Face: Derek Jarman (1993, 41 mins): Jarman discusses his HIV status and sexuality with Jeremy Isaacs
• Producer Tariq Ali on Wittgenstein (2014, 7 mins)
• Jarmanalia with Simon Fisher Turner (2019, 17 mins)
• Films Made by a Painter (2019, 5 mins): James Mackay reflects on Jarman’s distinctive style as a filmmaker
BLUE & GLITTERBUG
Blue – the third film in the highly-personal trilogy begun by The Last of England and The Garden – received a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival for its uncompromising look at what it’s like to live and work as an artist with the emotional and physical agonies of AIDS. A challenge to conventional filmmaking ideas, the film sees Jarman (and friends) musing on life, death and living with AIDS using vocal and musical testimony against a blank blue screen. Its a fitting goodbye from a director who never once compromised his principals or his own vision. The posthumously-released Glitterbug is a wonderful elegy to Super 8, featuring a compilation of shorts in which the likes of Adam Ant, William S Burroughs and Marianne Faithfull all contribute.
• 21st Century Nuns (1994, 10 mins): A look at the British chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their ‘colourful’ activist efforts at fighting homophobia. Great to see this included, as it features some dear friends (some of whom are no longer with us), and is a reminder of just how far we have come with gay/lesbian/transgender rights.
• Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman (2009, 13 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers Blue (2019, 15 mins)
• Simon Fisher Turner Remembers Blue (2019, 8 mins)
• David Lewis Remembers Blue (2019, 13 mins)
• Hard to Imagine (2019, 8 mins): John Maybury recalls Jarman’s journey towards Blue
• After The Garden (2019, 10 mins): Richard Heslop remembers Jarman’s later days
• Total Magic (2019, 6 mins): production designer Christopher Hobbs looks back upon Jarman’s fascination with occult imagery
• After Neutron (2019, 8 mins): interview with Lee Drysdale
• The Best Mentor (2019, 9 mins): John Scarlett-Davis on Jarman’s artistic legacy
• Glitterbug and Beyond (2019, 7 mins): James Mackay on the production of Glitterbug
• David Lewis Remembers Glitterbug (2019, 7 mins)
• Bliss (1991, 40 mins, audio only): the London debut of the avant-garde live show that helped raise funds to produce Blue, featuring Derek Jarman and Tilda Swinton. This is another of my personal favourites as I was in the audience for this performance, and ended up meeting and chatting with Jarman after the gig. He later gave me some Super 8mm film to shoot my own experimental short, Cruising Headstones.
Miss Leslie’s Dolls (1973) | This demented schlock horror is a camp delight!
Whatever you do, don’t go by the IMDb listing for this 1970s schlockfest, which is supposed to be about ‘a gay drag queen with a mother fixation who terrorizes a city, hunting down, killing and dismembering women’. While that sounds like something I’d rather like to see, Miss Leslie’s Dolls is actually about a maniac obsessed with transporting her spirit into the bodies of young women, while the ‘dolls’ of the title are the preserved corpses of the girls she failed to possess.
With long black Morticia Addams hair, bushy eyebrows and five o’clock shadow, and dressed in a matronly purple robe, Miss Leslie looks like Aleister Crowley in Norma Bates drag. Now it’s pretty obvious from the outset that she’s being played by a bloke (Miami theatre actor Salvador Ugarte) being dubbed by a woman, but it all makes sense in the end and the road to the reveal is an absolute hoot.
This trangressive spin on the Old Dark House and House of Wax sees students Martha (Kitty Lewis), Lily (Marcelle Bichette), Roy (Charles Pitt) and their teacher Alma (Terri Juston) seeking shelter from a storm at Miss Leslie’s remote home in the woods.
On setting eyes on the lonely middle-age woman’s tableaux of female statues, the teens suspect her of belonging to some weird love cult, but Miss Leslie explains that she has long held a fascination for dolls and for creating life size ones as her family once owned a doll factory that was burned down in a fire. Martha, meanwhile, is the spitting image of the girl Miss Leslie was in love with 20 years ago.
Things go all Thundercrack meets Psycho as soon as the lights go out, with the students and their teacher getting in some bed swapping and heavy petty (Roy’s a bit of a sex god, and there’s some girl-on-girl action), while ‘girl worshipper’ Miss Leslie heads to the cellar for an emotional heart-to-heart with the skull of her dead mother, whom she blames for her murderous acts. We then learn that all Miss Leslie wants in life is to be desired – and to do that, she needs to be reincarnated into the body of a young woman. Oh dear… there are three potential candidates upstairs!
What happens next is really ‘Out there!’ – with the standout scenes involving the waxwork ‘dolls’ coming to lurid life; Martha, Lily and Roy being chased by Miss Leslie armed with an axe dripping in blood, and a drugged Alma, dressed in baby doll negligee and fluffy mules, trying to escape from the deranged maniac. So does Miss Leslie succeed in her spirit swapping? Well you’ll have to see the film to find out. But I can reveal that’s there’s a neat twist at the end.
For decades this would-be cult classic was considered lost, and doesn’t even get a mention in any of my cult film reference books, including Michael Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopaedia (my go-to book for the weird, the strange and the freakish). But kudos to Network Distributing and The Erotic Film Society’s Julian Marsh for unearthing this hidden gem (which I’ve now watched three times).
As I’ve mentioned, the film shares its DNA with a host of other genre classics, with Psycho being the obvious one. Shot at the same studios in Florida where Hershell Gordon Lewis lensed his grand guignol offerings, it has the look and feel of the godfather of gore’s grindhouse flicks (especially Gruesome Twosome), but also has shades of Ed Wood’s Glen Or Glenda and even Beyond the Valley of the Dolls running through its exploitation veins.
There’s much debate as to who really directed this bizarre cinematic experience, which is all explained in the booklet, written by film historian Laura Mayne, which accompanies Network’s release, but that doesn’t matter, as this is a hugely enjoyable slice of cheap and sleazy 1970s horror, which also benefits from an unusual score by the film’s screenwriter (Ralph Remy Jr as Imer Leaf) that fuses the space-age electronic sounds of Bebe and Louis Barron’s music to Forbidden Planet (1955) with Bobby Beausoleil’s otherworldly orchestral score to Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising (1972).
Newly scanned from one of the few surviving prints in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Miss Leslie’s Dolls is out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on 3 September from Network.
Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 | Six of the best from the iconoclastic British artist collected and restored on Blu-ray
24 years have gone by since his death aged just 52, but the legacy of British filmmaker Derek Jarman (1942-1994) lives on, and his highly personal work has lost none of its relevance or impact. The BFI have now released the first of two deluxe limited edition box sets that bring together six of his feature films on Blu-ray for the first time.
In the Shadow of the Sun (1974), Jarman’s debut abstract short film is comprised of a series of Super 8 films and is provided with a soundtrack from music group Throbbing Gristle. Personally, it was thanks to this film that I started experimenting with my own short films, and turned me into a big fan of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and Coil.
Sebastiane (1976), Jarman’s debut feature film, spoken entirely in Latin and featuring an ambient score from Brian Eno, is an homoerotic account of the life and martyrdom of Saint Sebastiane (Leonardo Treviglio), a Roman soldier who is exiled to a remote outpost where his commanding officer (Barney James) becomes obsessed by him.
Jubilee (1978) | Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported through time from 1578 to 1978 by her astrologer John Dee (Richard O’Brien), where she sees what has become of her once glorious kingdom where law and order has broken down. Adam Ant, Toyah Wilcox and Jordan co-star.
The Tempest (1979) | Jarman creates his own interpretation of Shakespeare’s final play. Abandoned on a remote island by his brother Antonio (Richard Warwick), Prospero (Heathcote Williams), the former Duke of Milan, engineers a shipwreck to bring Ferdinand (David Meyer) the Prince of Naples, and his daughter Miranda (Toyah Wilcox) together in a bid to restore peace between Milan and Naples.
The Angelic Conversation (1985), a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets are read by Judi Dench over atmospheric music by Coil and tableaux images of landscapes and people.
Caravaggio (1986) | A heavily stylised biopic of the Renaissance Italian painter Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) who falls in love with his muse, street thug, Ranuccio Thomasoni (Sean Bean).
Derek Jarman’s first six feature films have all been newly scanned at 2K from original film elements and are presented in this first box set alongside some incredible extras (listed below), all drawn from Jarman’s archive of workbooks and papers held in BFI Special Collections, plus a host of interviews with key cast, crew and friends, which have been exclusively produced for this release.
You can purchase Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 direct from the BFI bookshop or from Amazon and HMV (in the UK).
• Sebastiane: A Work in Progress (1975): newly remastered from 16mm film elements held by the BFI National Archive, this sadly incomplete early black and white work-print differs significantly from the finished film. This previously unseen alternate edit – assembled in a different order, featuring a different soundtrack – was never subtitled or released
• The Making of Sebastiane (Derek Jarman & Hugh Smith, 1975): previously unseen Super 8 footage shot on location in Sardinia
• Jazz Calendar (1968): a rarely screened documentary record of the 1968 ballet by Frederick Ashton, performed by The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, for which Jarman designed sets and costumes
• Sloane Square: A Room of One’s Own (1974-76)
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers Sebastiane (2018)
• Message from the Temple (1981)
• TG: Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981)
• Pirate Tape (WS Burroughs Film) (1982)
• Toyah Willcox: Being Mad (2014)
• Jordan remembers Jubilee (2018)
• Lee Drysdale remembers Jubilee (2018)
• Stormy Weather: the Magic Behind The Tempest (2016): Toyah Willcox and Stuart Hopps share their memories of working on The Tempest
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers The Tempest (2018)
• Don Boyd remembers The Tempest (2018)
• A Meeting of Minds: Christopher Hobbs on collaborating with Derek Jarman (2018)
• Fragments of Memory: Christopher Hobbs on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
• To the Cliffs: James Mackay on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
• Derek Jarman: The Films that Never Were (2018): A look back on unrealised Derek Jarman features, including Egyptian period drama Akhenaten and science fiction horror Neutron
• Akhenaten Image Gallery & Neutron storyboards
• Audio commentary for Caravaggio by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain
• Caravaggio in Docklands (1985)
• Kind Blasphemy: Nigel Terry on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Tilda Swinton on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Italy of the Memory: Christopher Hobbs on Caravaggio (2007)
• Dexter Fletcher on Caravaggio (2014)
• Christopher Hobbs remembers Caravaggio (2018)
• Derek Jarman interviewed by Derek Malcolm (1986, audio only)
• In the Studio: Caravaggio soundtrack recording sessions (1986, audio only)
• Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio notebook (Gallery)
• Five galleries featuring storyboards, production designs and Jarman’s notes on Caravaggio
• Image galleries
• Original theatrical trailers for The Angelic Conversation and Caravaggio
• 80-page collector’s book
The Naked Civil Servant (1975) | John Hurt’s Bafta-winning turn as gay icon Quentin Crisp restored in HD
Originally broadcast on UK TV in December 1975, this Bafta-winning adaptation of Quentin Crisp’s best-selling autobiography, The Naked Civil Servant, boasts a career-best performance by the late John Hurt as Crisp – a flamboyant south London engineer’s tracer turned artist’s model living an openly gay lifestyle during the intolerant pre-war years, where he proudly challenges the authorities that seek to suppress him and his kind.
Blackly comic, poignant and yet also life-affirming, this courageous story about a very unconventional British eccentric is masterfully directed by Jack Gold (The Medusa Touch, Escape from Sobibor), from a screenplay by Philip Mackie (TV’s Raffles), and executive produced by Doctor Who’s Verity Lambert.
It also boasts some colourful turns from the likes of Shane Briant as a cross dressing male prostitute called Norma and Patricia Hodge as an Isadora Duncan-styled ballet teacher. But kudos go to Stanley Lebor as the tragic Mr Pole (his descent into madness will have you reaching for some tissues).
One of the most significant LGBT British-made TV dramas of all time, the Thames Television production gave Hurt his first Best Actor Bafta and turned Crisp into an instant international celebrity and a gay icon.
The self-proclaimed ‘Stately Homo’ was hailed as a modern-day Oscar Wilde due to his aphoristic witticisms which led him into creating a successful one-man show and publishing further works including 1996’s Resident Alien (which inspired 2009’s An Englishman in New York, also with John Hurt). Crisp died, aged 91, in 1999.
Check out his archives here: http://www.crisperanto.org/index1.html
Voted fourth in BFI’s Top 100 TV programmes of 20th Century, The Naked Civil Servant has been restored in high-definition from the original film elements.
With 2017 marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, it’s the perfect time time revisit the film, which also gets a special cinema screening on 28 May at a number of selected venues nationwide part of Picturehouse Cinemas’ Criminal Acts season. For more information go to: https://www.picturehouses.com/film/the-naked-civil-servant
Out on Blu-ray and DVD from Network on June 5 2017
THE NETWORK RELEASE
• HD feature version (HD Blu-ray exclusive), restored from the original film elements and presented in its original 1:33:1 picture ratio with the ad-breaks removed
• Commentary with John Hurt, director Jack Gold and executive producer Verity Lambert
• Seven Men: Quentin Crisp – a Granada profile from 1971
• Mavis Catches Up with Quentin Crisp: an interview from 1989
• Image gallery
• Philip Mackie’s original script (PDF)
ALSO… CHECK OUT THIS UNRESTORED VIDEO OF QUENTIN CRISP’S ONE-MAN SHOW
Pasolini (2015) | Abel Ferrara’s last day in the artist’s life plays like Christ’s Passion
‘To scandalise is a right; to be scandalised a pleasure’
So said Pier Paolo Pasolini, the outspoken Italian filmmaker, writer and Marxist, whose final days in 1975 are relived by fellow provocateur Abel Ferrara.
Willem Dafoe gives an illuminating, introspective performance as the maverick artist who goes about his daily affairs, reading scripts, attending interviews, entertaining guests at the house he shares with his mother, before he is brutally murdered one evening on a beach on the outskirts of Rome in circumstances which still arouse suspicions today.
A film that neither accuses nor investigates, this engaging biopic celebrates Pasolini’s fearlessness and creativity, and can be read as Pasolini’s own Passion. It may have got mixed reception at recent film festivals, but Dafoe’s magnetic performance as well as the presence of Ninetto Davoli, Pasolini’s long-time confidant, lifts Ferrara’s portrait from mere navel gazing.
Now, I have always been a huge fan of Pasolini and this film certainly evokes the spirit and essence of Pasolini the intellectual and the artist, but what about the man? Ferrara’s Pasolini is all words and no action, and only lives vicariously through his friends. And when he does act on his sexual impulses, he’s punished – is it because he prefers the company of men or just young men in general?
Running just 82-minutes, it left me wanting more (although Kim Newman remarked at the screening I attended that it gets an extra star because it was so short) and if I didn’t already know anything about Pasolini before watching, then I’d be wondering what it was all about and what it was trying to say.
But there’s a lot going on under the surface in this one, and Ferrera layers his film with a mix of reality, fantasy and the absurd and he tries to get into Pasolini’s mindset, whose mottos were ‘Great, absolute, absurd’ and ‘To have, possess and destroy’. And these are best displayed in the imaginary scenes with Davoli (who plays like Charlie Chaplin in his dotage), which are quite magical and recall Pasolini’s Hawks and Sparrows (with a bit of Fellini thrown in). I could happily have watched this film within a film as a stand-alone.
For me, however, there was another story begging to come out: Pasolini’s relationship with Davoli, who is seen in the flashbacks happily married and with a baby. And it’s this scene that says so much about the importance of family in Italy. It’s also the only time that we see Defoe’s Pasolini smile. What is Ferrara trying to say here. Again, it’s all about what’s going on underneath…
With November 2015 marking the 40th anniversary of his death, at just 53, Pasolini is a timey and meticulously researched portrayal of a visionary creative.
Pasolini can be streamed on BFI Player now
Victim (1961) | This landmark British classic remains a compelling drama about the love that dare not speak its name
With the ground-breaking 1961 British drama screening on Film4 today at 1.10pm, here’s a look at the film and the 2014 UK Blu-ray release from Network
Ssh! Don’t mention the ‘H’ word…
When youngster Jack Barrett (Peter McEnery) commits suicide in his prison cell after stealing money from his employers, respected barrister Melville Farr (Dirk Bogarde), who is secretly gay and once had a dalliance with Barrett, risks his reputation, career and marriage to his loving wife Laura (Sylvia Sims) to track down a group of blackmailers preying on homosexual men…
A Daring Picture About the World’s Most Un-talked About Subject
This brave, banned and ballsy 1961 British drama could have ended Dirk Bogarde’s career – but it didn’t. In fact, it gave the matinee idol the kudos and respect that he so longed for, and made him one of the most admired actors of his generation.
Directed by Basil Dearden (who also did The Blue Lamp with Bogarde), Victim not only gave the 39-year-old actor his career-best performance, it also shone a very public light on the law of the time which made homosexuality illegal in the UK, and also on the ‘blackmailer’s charter’ that was destroying so many lives in its wake. Banned in the US on its release (the term ‘homosexual’ was outlawed at the time), Victim became a cause célèbre in Britain about attitudes towards homosexuality and a plea for reform (which eventually happened in 1967).
Today, this landmark film still packs a mighty blow as a tense and compelling drama, and has become a true British cinematic classic thanks to Basil Dearden’s assured direction, Janet Green and John McCormick’s powerful screenplay, and Otto Heller’s noir-esque monochrome cinematography. Supporting Bogarde there’s impressive roster of rich talent, including Sylvia Syms and Dennis Price.
THE UK BLU-RAY RELEASE
The Network Distributing Blu-ray release features the film in a high definition transfer made from original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio.
• Dirk Bogarde in Conversation – an extensive interview with Bogarde where he talks frankly about his career
• Original theatrical trailer
• Four image galleries, including extensive promotional and behind-the-scenes shots
• promotional material PDFs
You and the Night (2013) | This lyrical paean to love, death and sexual prowess is an outré delight
Around midnight, a stylish young couple and their transgender maid prepare for an orgy. Their guests will be The Slut, The Star, The Stud and The Teen. Each comes with their own dark and impassioned secrets, unravelled in flashbacks and admissions, in a night they’ll never forget…
The spirit of underground arthouse cinema lurks within the sensual stylings of this surreal arthouse oddity from writer-director Yann Gonzales, whose feature debut was met with mixed reviews on its original cinema release earlier this year. But I love it (I’ve seen it three times already) and I am totally turned on by the shimmering score by French electronic band M83.
Taking place within a vast Brutalist building set in a wintery woodland, Gonzales’ existential dream play, Les recontres d’apres minuit (in the original French), follows seven characters who, over the course of a night of debauchery and soul-searching, have their emotional wounds healed through their contact with each other. Imagine fusing The Breakfast Club, The Hunger, Jean Cocteau’s Orphée and Tales from the Crypt with some Pedro Almodóvar kitsch and some Bava/Argento-styled giallo, all set within an über cool 1980s aesthetic, and you’ll be on the mark.
Our hosts Ali (Kate Moran) and Matthias (Niels Schneider) are lovers granted eternal youth by Udo (Nicolas Maury), a transgender witch who brought Matthias back to life in exchange for the couple’s undying love. But Matthias is suffering terrible nightmares, which threatens to upset the threesome’s centuries-old union. Their orgy is a way of forgetting reality, but ends up becoming much more for them and their guests.
The cock-hungry Slut (Julie Brémond) is a lonely soul grieving over never having her mother’s love; the self-conscious Star (Fanienne Babe) reveals an incestuous secret that may just be a fantasy; the well-hung Stud (Eric Cantona) is in search of poetry as well as prowess; and the sex-addicted Teen (Alain-Fabien Delon) desperately wants a loving family to take him in.
While it looses by points going all introspective at the halfway mark (like a bad come down after an acid trip) and playing it safe with the tantric sex orgy scene, You and the Night is peppered with echoes of cinema’s arthouse past that make it a visually arresting delight. Its the reason why I love it so.
The opening motorbike dream sequence is lifted from Alain Robbe-Grillet’s 1983 erotic drama La belle captive; the stormy setting and sexual antics smacks of the 1975 black comedy Thundercrack!; the prison setting where The Stud gets whipped by Dalle dressed as Ilsa the Tigress of Siberia has a minimalist Derek Jarman look; and Ali and Matthias’ story is told in hyper-real flashback à la Fassbinder’s Querelle. The sparkling diamond dress worn by The Star, meanwhile, could almost be a copy of Delphine Seyrig’s gown in Harry Kümel’s Daughters of Darkness. Intentional or not, it’s the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in ages. Now if only that sensory jukebox was a reality.
You and the Night is released on DVD on 24 November in the UK from Peccadillo Pictures
Stranger by the Lake (2013) | Sex, sun and murder collide in Alain Guiraudie’s erotic and enigmatic Gallic thriller
YOU WANT TO SWIM WHERE A MAN DROWNED?
Tucked away on the shores of a secluded lake in rural southern France lies a naturist spot for gay men. As summer begins, so do the men come looking for anonymous sex in the woods behind the beach. While striking up a friendship with middle-age divorce Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao), directionless Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) falls for the attractive, extremely potent Michel (Christophe Paou). But when he witnesses Michel drowning his ex-lover, Franck becomes torn between his desire for the murderer and turning him in.
I’D BE SCARED IF I WERE YOU
There’s an air of Genet, Renoir and Bresson in this provocative and accomplished effort from French bad boy auteur Alain Guiraudie, who took Best Director honours at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard) for a highly-charged film that, while not strictly a thriller, certainly pays homage to the genre. (*)
Cloaked in the deceptive tranquility of the lake’s natural beauty, this is an enigmatic meditation on love, sex and illicit desire between men. And lurking beneath the surface of its joyful hedonism is a subtle critique about the dangers of anonymous sexual encounters. While the sexual activity is explicitly shown, Guiraudie does so to evoke the raw passion that exists between the characters of Franck and Michel, two outsiders who could easily have stepped out of the pages of a novel or play by Jean Genet. Like the thieves, prostitutes and murderers that populate the French author’s fiction, Franck and Michael also find divine love in their dangerous, masculine universe. Michel is every much the modern-day Querelle, an alpha male oozing sex and strength, while Franck is the besotted Captain Seblon, who’s desire to be with his murderous lover becomes greater than his fear of him.
To create the sense that his cruising ground is cut off from society (and reality) and enhance the outsider nature of the cruisers, Guiraudie never strays from the car park, the beach, the lake or the woods. This uncomplicated set-up allows the camera to linger over the landscape to capture the subtle changes in the light on the trees and water as day turns to night , while the use of wild sound enhances the naturalistic qualities. The end result is an astonishing palette that, when coupled with the positioning of the cruisers in the woods and on the beach, evokes the paintings of Renoir and the ascetic cinema of Bresson.
The thriller elements of the film play out in the second half, following the appearance of a naïve inspector investigating the murder. His is the voice of reason and, like the viewer, becomes an observer onto this private world. It makes for some comic moments, but also some telling ones, particularly about the empty lives these men are living: they have sex with each other, but never truly connect.
The film’s ending is a mystery, offering no resolution to Franck’s predicament. However, if you find yourself wanting some kind of closure, check out the alternate ending in the extras – it’s one that outsider Genet would highly approve.
The Peccadillo Pictures Blu-ray and DVD release includes alternative ending (which I preferred), three deleted scenes, two short films by Alain Guiraudie from the 1990’s (Les héros sont immortels, Straight Ahead Until Morning), interviews with the director and the cast, a featurette on the poster, and a Cannes Film Festival special. Stranger by the Lake is also available to rent online (click here) and on BFI Player (click here).
(*) Please note that this movie is rated 18 and contains scenes of a sexually-explicit nature intended for mature audiences only.
Querelle (1982) | Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s surreal take on Jean Genet’s homoerotic tale of lust and murder
Brad Davis is Georges ‘Jo’ Querelle, a sexually brazen, amoral sailor who struts his sensuality for all to admire and swoon. An opium smuggler and serial killer, Querelle murders fellow sailor Vic and takes refuge at a seaside brothel, where he must submit himself to a drug dealer in order to win the affections of aging chanteuse Madame Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau). With a predatory cop looking for Vic’s murderer, Querelle hatches a plan to make a construction worker (Hanno Pöschl) take the fall for him, unaware that his closeted commanding officer (Franco Nero) knows he murdered Vic.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder was personally at his lowest ebb when he worked on Jean Genet’s 1947 existential homoerotic novel of lust and murder. The irascible wunderkind of New German Cinema – and one of the most original film talents to emerge from Europe in the 1970s – was highly sought after for his creative talent, but deeply troubled. Shortly after filming Querelle, Fassbinder died, aged just 37, from a combination of cocaine, sleeping pills and alcohol, leaving behind a wealth of 44 films and career that spanned less that 13 years.
Querelle may lack the magic and power of Fassbinder’s greatest works, like The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant or the supremely elegant Effi Briest, but the director’s final film does show him ‘perilously venturing into new frontiers’. With unabashed queer sensibility Fassbinder captures the raw energy of Jenet’s themes of violence, passion, degradation and sexual submission, while his stylised, purposefully artificial sets, complete with it’s cock-shaped towers and other exaggerated phallic symbols (which are reminiscent of James Bidgood’s 1971 arthouse cult Pink Narcissus), give Jenet’s highly-charged novel the ideal surreal stage to swagger about on (and harks back to the French artist’s own experimental stagings of The Maids and The Balcony and The Blacks) – all set against an eternal technicolor sunset that channels Fassbinder’s love of Douglas Sirk’s 1950s melodramas. Querelle may not be Fassbinder’s best film, but its potent themes, stylised staging and Davis’ narcissistic performance make it a fascinating, and dare I say it, arousing, oddity.
THE UK DVD RELEASE
The Artificial Eye Blu-ray and DVD release presents the film in its 16 x 9/ 2:35:1 aspect ratio with a choice of English, German or French languages, with English subtitles. The extras include an introduction by Tin Drum director Volker Schlöndorff (in French, with subtitles), and the mini-documentary, Twilight of the Bodies: Fassbinder in Search of Querelle (33mins, in French with subtitles).
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from 10 March 2014, and is also available to stream on-line from Artificial Eye Films on YouTube