Saturday, December 10th, 2016, 11.00
Blue — Listening Space
[Derek Jarman: Blue]
Blue — Listening Space
The sole visual content of Derek Jarman's film Blue is the color blue projected uninterruptedly and without variation for the movie’s entire 76 minutes. Against this field of color so evocative of sky, ocean, blindness, heaven and eternity unfolds a soundtrack of music, poetry and scalding excerpts from a diary by the English film maker who has been living with AIDS for several years. Blue, which the New York Film Festival is presenting at Alice Tully Hall tomorrow evening at 9:30, is by turns heartbreaking, enraged, boring, pretentious and riveting. The narration, delivered with a stately equanimity by John Quentin, Nigel Terry and Tilda Swinton, is interwoven with music and sound effects to suggest a stream of consciousness that is continually changing levels. There are moments when the film maker’s spirit seems on the verge of taking leave of his body and drifting into the ether. At other times the writing is so incendiary that he seems ready to jump out of his sickbed and burn down the hospital. After a gentle beginning in which bells toll elegiacally and a voice contemplates the color blue and its associations, the screenplay narrows in on the film maker’s physical problems, of which the most acute is failing eyesight. From here, it veers between lulling metaphysical speculation and brutal physical reality. When the language turns vague and dreamy, Blue can seem like an indulgent exercise in languid poeticizing. But when the narrator expresses fear, rage and contempt, the film assumes a ferocious intensity in which the gap between the blankness on the screen and the emotions being expressed becomes the distance between one brilliant, cranky individual and nothingness. In the most pointed passages, the film maker, who is being treated in a public hospice, rails against the very idea of charity and the way it salves the conscience, allowing people to avoid contact with what disturbs them. The recitation of the possible side effects of an experimental drug is horrifying; many sound far worse than the blindness the drug is intended to thwart. In other searing moments the film maker asserts his homosexuality with the vengeful pride of someone for whom it is a badge of integrity in a corrupt, mediocre, inhuman society whose imminent destruction is to be devoutly wished for. […]
[Stephen Holden, The New York Times, 1993]
Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman (31 January 1942 – 19 February 1994) was an English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener and author. He boarded at Canford School in Dorset, and from 1960 studied at King's College London. This was followed by four years at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London (UCL), starting in 1963. He had a studio at Butler's Wharf, London, and was part of the Andrew Logan social scene in the 1970s. Jarman was outspoken about homosexuality, his never-ending public fight for gay rights, and his personal struggle with AIDS. In 1994, he died of an AIDS-related illness in London, aged 52.