Derek (2008)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBBB.   

United Kingdom, 2008Normal Films.  Screenplay by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Film Editing by .  

The life and career of visionary British filmmaker Derek Jarman are analysed in this short but compact documentary, narrated by Tilda Swinton from a letter she wrote to him posthumously. The film uses terrific stock footage of an extensive interview done with Jarman not long before his untimely death from AIDS in 1994. In it he describes growing up in a sturdy, upper-middle-class British household, his early school years studying to be a painter, his lucky breaks in cinema (including building sets for Ken Russell) and the birth of his career as a filmmaker who constantly pushed envelopes with every piece he did. Swinton’s career began with Jarman’s Caravaggio, and their collaborations made her known as his muse until Orlando by Sally Potter (who was Jarman’s protege at one point) made her world famous and led to the successful, Oscar-winning career she has today. Jarman’s films were frustrating, boring, exhilarating, beautiful and, at all times, unforgettable, and Isaac Julien’s portrait to him captures it all, while Swinton’s beautiful narration, and the references to Jarman’s work as a prominent gay rights activist, incorporate his humanity into the work beyond his status as an indie cinema icon.

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