Painter, poet, activist and queer cinema maverick, Derek Jarman (1942-1994) is one of Britain's most visionary and extraordinary film artists. Often in collaboration with actress and muse Tilda Swinton (2007 Oscar Winner for Michael Clayton
), Jarman's lush, experimental reflections on art, politics, sexuality and identity transcend and subvert both the genres in which he worked--the period costume drama, the biopic--as well as the boundaries of so-called gay filmmaking.
This four-disc set boasts two of Jarman's most accomplished arthouse features (Caravaggio
), and two of his most personal and avant-garde works (Blue
and The Angelic Conversation
also debuts a treasure trove of additional material including the posthumously assembled 54-minute film collage Glitterbug
; rare behind-the-scenes footage; extensive video and audio interviews; production galleries; and a 20-page illustrated booklet with essays, an interview with Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell and a tribute by Coil's Peter Christopherson.DISC ONE: CARAVAGGIO
The volatile life of the eponymous 17th-century painter is gorgeously re-imagined through his brilliant, near-blasphemous paintings and flirtations with the underworld. With Tilda Swinton, Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gough, and Nigel Terry in the title role.
1986 - 90 minutes - UK - Color - In English - 16:9 aspect ratio - Not RatedCARAVAGGIO
- Restored anamorphic transfer, created from Hi-Def elements
- Video interviews with actress Tilda Swinton, actor Nigel Terry and production designer Christopher Hobbs
- Audio commentary by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain
- Rare audio and video interviews with Derek Jarman
- Storyboard, notebook, production photo and sketch galleries
- Original theatrical trailer
- English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impairedDISC TWO: WITTGENSTEIN
A visually stunning and profoundly entertaining portrait of the irreverent 20th-century philosopher who preferred detective fiction and Carmen Miranda musicals to Aristotle.
1993 - 69 minutes - UK - Color - In English - 16:9 aspect ratio - Not Rated WITTGENSTEIN
- Restored anamorphic transfer, created from Hi-Def elements
- Video interviews with actress Tilda Swinton, actor Karl Johnson and producer Tariq Ali
- Extensive behind-the-scenes footage
- Video introduction by film historian Ian Christie
- The Clearing
(Alex Bistikas, 1994), a short film featuring Jarman
- English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired DISC THREE: THE ANGELIC CONVERSATION
This ethereal Super-8 mélange beautifully layers languorous music by cult band Coil and Dame Judi Dench's emotive readings of Shakespeare love sonnets.
1985 - 78 minutes - UK - Color and B&W - In English - 1.33:1 aspect ratio - Not RatedTHE ANGELIC CONVERSATION
- Restored transfer
- Video interviews with producer James Mackay and production designer Christopher Hobbs
- Derek Jarman in conversation with Simon Field (1989)
- English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired DISC FOUR: BLUE
Jarman's most daring cinematic statement (a year before his death from AIDS in 1994) lays bare his physical and spiritual struggle through a rich tapestry of voices, music and a pure cobalt screen.
1993 - 76 minutes - UK - Blue - In English - 16:9 aspect ratio - Not RatedBLUE
(1994), 54-minute collage of Jarman's footage posthumously assembled by the filmmaker's friends and featuring original music by Brian Eno
- English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
, with its extra film, Glitterbug
, compiled by Derek Jarman's friends following his death, is an especially personal tribute to this idiosyncratic director, writer, and artist. Renowned for his outspoken dedication and experimental portrayals of politically radical heroes, Jarman's films challenge the conventions of narrative filmmaking and expand narrow definitions of sexuality. This boxed set contains The Angelic Conversation
(1993), and Blue
(1993), which, viewed together, clarify Jarman's preoccupation with the ways language and imagery intertwines or demand separation. Each film contains heavy theatricality, unabashed passion, poetic screenwriting, and a finely tuned color palette, lending the works extreme drama that is an acquired taste. In The Angelic Conversation
, a young Morrissey-type searches longingly for love until he finds his possible angel in the form of another hunky sensitive guy. The super-8 footage is romanticized by Judi Dench's reading of certain Shakespearean sonnets that question life's meaning, over a moody, ambient soundtrack by Coil. Caravaggio
is an eccentric portrayal of the artist, Michelangelo di Caravaggio (Nigel Terry), embroiled in a hot love triangle between figure model Ranuccio (Sean Bean), and Lena (Tilda Swinton). Far from a conventional biopic, the film capitalizes on Caravaggio's maniacal reputation, with lurid decadence and emotionally weighty scenes throughout. Wittgenstein
, co-written by Terry Eagleton, also takes liberties with its depiction of this famed philosopher, played by Karl Johnson. Filmed entirely against a black backdrop, the movie focuses on the thinker's homosexual identity crisis, throughout childhood, then as he makes academic headway at Cambridge. Blue
, filmed right before Jarman's death as an expression of his fears and shock at his loss of eyesight, is 76 minutes of blue screen, which stirringly comes alive as Tilda Swinton and Nigel Terry read from Jarman's journals his musings about the color, against a soundtrack of ticking clocks and more composed by Eno, Momus, and Simon Fisher-Turner.
Extras on each disc, including multitudinous interviews with Jarman's friends, the man himself, and a short film called "The Clearing" (1994), in which Jarman silently acts, are plentiful and great. But the real extra gem here is Glitterbug, a fifty-minute compilation of Jarman's unused home film and video footage, set to Brian Eno music. Filmed on sets, in artist's studios, at parties, fashion shows, and on travel excursions, Glitterbug is a visual diary of Jarman's inspirations. Moreover, as reference material it establishes his aesthetic sensibilities, his tastes for the lavish, the punk, and for other humans fully dedicated to art. --Trinie Dalton