Blue (Great Britain, 1993):

The title of the final film by avant-garde British maverick Derek Jarman evokes the theoretical banality of Andy Warhol's '60s experiments (Sleep, Blow Job, Harlot), and the narrative is no less conceptual. For practically all of its running time, it consists of nothing more than an unchanging blue screen upon which we hear a barrage of ruminations, remembrances and assorted pensées from the ailing, sightless Jarman. What rescues it from tedious abstraction (and keeps the picture from being simply filmed radio) are Jarman's stylistic modernism and his absolute adherence to clear-eyed unsentimentality. Jarman's layering of the movie is more aural than visual (with scrupulous attention to overlapping sound bridges), yet as the Elizabethian words modulate from plummy to morbid to bracingly obscene to ethereal, the blue on the screen seems to ondulate with feeling -- it alternately suggests a serene sea, the sky, a burnt retina, the chilliness of death and, maybe, transcendence. Only late into it did I begin to understand it as more than Jarman's requiem to himself -- blind and dying of AIDS, he uses it to purge and purify himself, staring into the darkness and finding unlikely bliss. The contrast here is not simply between image and sound, but between a man's failing body and his ardent mind. Despite being the virtual antithesis of the savage imagery punctuating the director's more famous works (Jubilee, The Tempest, The Last of England), Blue is arguably his most radical work. John Quentin, Nigel Terry and Tilda Swinton, friends and collaborators, are among the other voices heard.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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