Premiere Date — 105 minutes, color, 35mm, aspect ratio 1.66:1 — Genre
Jarman’s 2nd feature, one-sentence SUMMARY.
*PLEASE NOTE* I am in the process of revising this Jarman page, and all of my websites, to be completed in 2021. Thank you for understanding.
Jubilee (1978) is a wildly beautiful film which strikes a precarious, and compelling, balance between sheer anarchy and genuine tenderness. Since first viewing it a week ago – I have since watched it three times – I have found myself frequently talking and writing to friends about it. Yet it remains an elusive film; and after every viewing, it tantalizes with new connections and still more layers of meaning. The Criterion Collection has created a superb DVD release, and included a wealth of archival and original supplements described below.
What is Jubilee about? It begins when Queen Elizabeth I (played with quiet power by Jenny Runacre, who also portrays Bod, whom we will meet in a moment) has her court alchemist, the historical John Dee, summon Ariel. The sloe-eyed spirit with huge hands (whom Jarman describes as having “a glitter punk scintilla”) transports all of them 400 years into the future – just beyond our own time – to a dystopic London, which has become a literal wasteland, overrun with violence and decay. Let Jarman summarize Jubilee for you in his own words (culled from various supplements on the DVD):
Law and order has finally been abolished and do-your-own-thing is the order of the day. The church is a strip club [and Buckingham Palace a recording studio]…. Open war between all factions of society. A gang of bike girls centered at H.Q. in Southwark, rape and kill all adversaries, led by the Queen of Punk, Bod [Bodicea]…. The music of groups like The Slits, Sex Pistols plays incessantly to rapturous reception. The film is anarchic and very beautiful.
Jarman has nailed Jubilee: It is simultaneously “anarchic and very beautiful.” But perhaps the reasons why this film is so obsession-inducing (at least in me) is because both its “anarchy” and its “beauty” are fascinatingly complex, and merge into each other in so many original and striking ways.
The film has misleadingly been called a “Punk movie.” It is much more than that, although the then-nascent movement informs the film in many ways, from music to casting to tone. Punk’s heyday was 1975–80, with its two key albums – The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks and The Clash’s The Clash – both appearing in 1977, the year Jubilee was filmed (coinciding with Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee). Punk provided a clarion voice for alienated teenagers in its mix of hard-driving rock, socially aware but simple lyrics – that crystalized the mood of anger, powerlessness, and rebellion in the face of a severe economic recession – and a confrontational style which extended from the songs to the fashions of its devotees. Jubilee provides a virtual catalog of the Punk Look, from Mad’s (Toyah Willcox in a stunning performance) close-cropped hair dyed Day-Glo orange to angsty graffiti which covers almost every wall to the scrawled quotation from Psycho (which ends “…wouldn’t even harm a fly”) which fills the back of the jackets worn by the female biker gang. You may recall Hitchcock’s final scene, when the strait-jacketed Norman Bates, “possessed” by his dead mother, tells us how harmless he now is (yeah, right): Even a small detail like this resonates, since the tangled connection between gender identity and violence is one of Jarman’s key themes.
On a more overtly Punk note, Jarman includes songs by several popular groups, including Siouxsie and the Banshees, Maneaters, Chelsea, Amilcar, and Suzi Pinns – whose high-pitched vocal of “Rule Britannia,” together with actress “Jordan’s” goose-stepping performance as Amyl Nitrate, provides the film’s musical high point (see the first frame at the top of this review). He also puts several Punk icons onscreen, from the group The Slits (who play a street gang), to transgender star Wayne County (who portrays Lounge Lizard, the world’s biggest star: We’re told he’s just sold “50 million copies” in Russian alone of his hit “Paranoia Paradise”) to, most importantly, Adam Ant.
Despite its Punk trappings, ultimately the film seems more about Punk than of it. How Jarman uses then-rising star Adam Ant reveals much about the film and filmmaker. When Crabs meets, and instantly tries to pick up, Kid (Adam Ant’s character), she coos that he is “gorgeous.” With his sweetly boyish persona – made just a bit wild by the black leather and painted-on lower sideburns (see the frame to the left) – it is no wonder that Jarman, as reported by a friend on the DVD’s documentary, fell “madly in love with him.” But how Jarman uses Kid in the film may reveal at least as much about his sociopolitical insights as his romantic frustration. When Kid is asked what he does, he replies, “Nothing… Music.” And throughout he is as passive offstage as he is frenzied onstage. His performance with his group, Adam and the Ants, is one of only two or three full musical numbers in the film; and it strikingly reveals Jarman’s gifts as one of the originators of music videos.
But Kid is unable to connect with anyone, including Crabs. He seems content to lie on his stomach while Crabs pulls his t-shirt up and strokes his back, and that only because she has promised to introduce him to Borgia Ginz (played by “Orlando,” aka Jack Birkett), the mogul who controls the entire world’s media and hence political, and even religious, power structure. (Ginz shares a palatial mansion in Dorset with an aged Adolf Hitler.) Ginz is, of course, taken with Kid and signs him, immediately rechristening him “Scum. That’s commercial. It’s all they [the audience] deserve.”
Perhaps the most haunting, and disturbing, image of Kid is the close-up shown two paragraphs above: Kid kissing his own image on TV (a moment later, he even licks the screen lasciviously with his tongue), giving a decidedly postmodern twist to the myth of Narcissus. And on still another level, Jarman was showing his foresight into Punk’s future. Just a few years after the release of Jubilee, as the filmmaker wrote in his memoir Dancing Ledge, “the film turned prophetic…. the streets burned in Brixton and Tosteth. Adam [Ant] was on Top of the Pops and signed up with Margaret Thatcher to sing at the Falklands Ball.” Jarman concluded the passage by repeating the chilling words he gave Borgia Ginz at the end of Jubilee: “They all sign up in one way or another.”
Beyond the Punk movement, Jarman turned to film, literature, history, and even ‘club culture’ to flesh out his vision for Jubilee. Although the picture is powerful on its own terms, without any need for “footnoting,” Jarman’s wide-ranging use of sources is fascinating, especially because he was equally at home in so many diverse aesthetic worlds. Also, it is through his unique artistry that Jarman is able to combine, and constantly recombine in endless variations, the dual vision of anarchy and beauty and make the film so engrossing, and moving. He is also one of the most creatively playful of modern filmmakers, and that sense of schoolboyish “let’s put on a show” energy keeps his films, even with their density of themes, buoyant and genuinely entertaining. It is a tough balancing act which few other filmmakers have been able to master.
Jarman draws on several cinematic traditions. On the one hand, he is inspired by the poetic, mythically resonant films of Jean Cocteau (Beauty and the Beast and Orpheus), who, like Jarman, was gay and brilliantly gifted in many areas, including drama, poetry, fiction, and the visual arts. Jubilee’s Ariel, whom we first see holding a mirror which blindingly reflects the sun, could have stepped out of Cocteau’s surreal 1930 first film, The Blood of a Poet (Jarman was also quoting from his own 1973 short, “Art of Mirrors”). He also admired the sumptuous films made collaboratively by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, including such 1940s classics of British cinema as Stairway to Heaven, Black Narcissus, and The Red Shoes. For instance, Jarman uses the color red, which bursts into the film at several dramatic points, in ways reminiscent of Powell and Pressburger.
Perhaps the most profound influence on Jarman is the political, and visually arresting, early cinema of Jean-Luc Godard, especially the two seminal films he made in 1967. La Chinoise, about a terrorist cell, informed how Jarman depicts the biker gang, while Week End provided a blueprint for creating a trenchant yet cost-effective modern wasteland. More generally, Godard offered Jarman a rich series of techniques to adapt, including ways to employ both visual and verbal cues to highlight how intrinsically absurd, and sometimes fatal, society can be. Both filmmakers also bring additional depth, and irony, by brandishing an extensive range of culture, not only through allusions to other films but with images of books read from, sloganeering posters, and dialogue that is delivered as if the actors were merely reading texts, not to mention fantastic, historically impossible settings. All of those elements are strikingly evident in Jubilee; the punked-out schoolteacher and pseudo-historian Amyl Nitrate (played by “Jordan” with zigzags of greasepaint and towering blond hair spikes – she the frame above) is the most Godardian character in any Jarman film.
Jarman was also an admirer of one of Godard’s most astonishing disciples, the openly gay political filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, whose early films in particular may have influenced Jubilee. One possible connection is Fassbinder’s 1970 experimental picture, The Niklashauasen Journey, which conflates political unrest in Germany’s Middle Ages and the late 1960s.
A link between the poetic and political traditions, and one of Jarman’s favorite filmmakers, was Pier Paolo Pasolini, yet another gay director/author/artist. He was the major influence on Jarman’s first film, Sebastiane (1976); and his lyrical/political/mythic sensibility can be felt in all of Jarman’s work. Yet one work stands out as the primary influence on Jubilee: Stanley Kubrick’s landmark 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange.
In some ways, Jubilee feels like an even bleaker extension of A Clockwork Orange, not only in its depiction of a near-future London of decay and explosive violence, but in how Jarman shoots the three or four attack scenes which punctuate his film. He reminds us of Kubrick in the way he balances close-ups and medium shots, employs oblique compositions, sometimes uses harsh key light (note the frame to the right), and in how he unflinchingly holds the shot until the emotion becomes unbearable – making us aware of his own horror at the violence. Yet the style of those scenes feels more like the brief cinéma vérité clips of staged atrocities, which Alex is forced to watch during the Ludovico Treatment, than the bulk of A Clockwork Orange.
The source of Kubrick’s film – Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel – also reminds us of the literary roots of Jubilee, including William S. Burroughs’s The Wild Boys (1971), which uses an experimental form to depict the exploits of a band of wild gay ‘freedom fighters’ in a near-future dystopia, not to mention such earlier landmark works in this tradition, both from Britain, as Orwell’s 1984 (1949) and Huxley’s Brave New World (1932; Jarman even has the phrase scrawled on a wall at the gang’s headquarters).
Of course, Huxley made ironic use of the phrase from The Tempest (in fact, it would be Jarman’s next feature, and one of the great Shakespeare film adaptations). The spirit, and sometimes even the language, of Shakespeare, plays a fascinating part in Jubilee. One of the most beautiful pastiches of Shakespearean style I know comes in John Dee’s monologue in the first scene of Jubilee, when he invokes Ariel. Dee is portrayed with spellbinding restraint by Richard O’Brien (best known as the creator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and for playing Riff Raff in the film version – interestingly, Jarman uses several visual and performance cues from Riff Raff for his character Borgia Ginz). Here is an excerpt from Dee’s monologue (transcribed directly from the film), delivered impeccably by O’Brien:
I cast for Ariel, pearl of fire, my only star. God’s moonbeam send forth my flower. The smoke and ashes of ages past which hangs like morning mist in veils across the universe, parts in swirls and eddies, and through them, the shooting star, my angel Ariel, flies with mirrored eyes, leaving a sparkling phosphorescent trail across the universe. Down. Down he plummets towards Earth, through the great vacuum on the curve of infinity. And like a fiery rose, he descends to Mortlake.
(NOTE: Mortlake, where Jubilee’s Elizabethan scenes are set, was Dee’s estate near London, where he had both a laboratory and the largest private library in England, with over 4,000 volumes.)
Jarman draws still more from the Elizabethan era, while giving it a decidedly Punk inflection. His characters’ names recall the allegorical figures in Edmund Spenser’s epic-length poem – with characters such as Errour and Braggadocchio – The Faerie Queene (the title refers to Queen Elizabeth; Spenser was also one of Jarman’s favorite poets). I found Jarman’s own descriptions of his characters suggestive. They reveal not only the scope of his themes but his wonderfully quirky and playful side too. Cheek by jowl with historical and mythical allusions are such artefacts of ’70s (and later) dance club culture as “Amyl Nitrate” and “Crabs.”
Character (actor): / Jarman’s comments / [my notes]:
- Bod: Bodicea, Queen of a new age, electric, tough, monosyllabic [Boadicea (Boudicca) was an ancient British queen who led a ferocious revolt against the Roman Empire when they annexed her land, before finally being defeated in 60 A.D.; she is also considered a lesbian icon – Amyl’s Punkish “Roman” costume in the “Rule Britannia” number suggests Bodicea – see the first frame at the top of this review]
- Amyl Nitrate: Punk intellectual, a schoolteacher [her name refers to amyl nitrite, or “poppers,” used as an illicit aphrodisiac, and found in plentiful supply at discos and clubs. Mad tells us, early on, “The world is no longer interested in heroes. We now know too much about them…. Amyl Nitrate. She’s our heroine.”]
- Crabs (Nell Campbell aka “Little Nell”): Sexy, nymphomaniac, plastic schmaltz, nubile [her name refers to pubic lice, transmitted between sexual partners]
- Mad: Media freak remarkable for her ordinariness [she is also a pyromaniac, and the flaming-haired embodiment of craziness]
- Chaos (Hermine Demoriane): Motorcyclist, the group’s mechanic, she is silent throughout the movie [Amyl describes her as “our French au pair”]
- Viv (Linda Spurrier): An artist, reserved, sympathetic, but destroyed [Jarman also referred to her, affectionately, as “a butch dyke” – “Viv” is also derived from the Latin word for life]
- Sphinx (Karl Johnson): AC/DC sexy, dangerous
- Angel (Ian Charleson): Beautiful con-artist
- Borgia Ginz: Impresario, evil personified [Angel tells us he is also “Cardinal Borgia Ginz.” His name was derived from the treacherous Borgia family of the 15th and 16th centuries; while Ginz may refer to Tokyo’s Ginza district, famous for its posh stores and nightclubs.]
- Max (Neil Kennedy): An entertainer in Bingo, retired mercenary, brash, vulgar, vile [in the film, he tells us that during his military days, “I ran a sideline, sellin’ the boys to the local punters in the pub. The army sees more action in bed these days.”]
- Kid [intriguingly, Jarman wrote no comments on this pivotal character]
arman’s brilliance as an artist allows him to meld all of these eclectic sources, and more (including his two wildly diverse stated sources: Punk fan magazines of the day and Frances A. Yates’s The Art of Memory (1966), a classic study of how people learned to retain vast stores of knowledge before the invention of the printed page), into a film of consummate originality and power.
He also brings great beauty – and emotional resonance – to the film through his characters. I was often surprised by how much I cared about these eccentric, and sometimes lethal, allegorical people. Jarman is well-known for including friends and lovers in his films. Not only does this provide a, shall we say, cost-effective approach to casting, it also brings a deeply personal connection to his films. Jarman not only published his autobiography in book form, throughout his life he also shot hundreds of hours of Super 8 footage. Some of those “home movies” found their way into his feature films, including the surreal “Jordan’s Dance” (the DVD includes the complete short film, beautiful in its own right, which Jarman also re-edited and incorporated into Jubilee: Chapter 4, “Amyl’s Dance,” of the DVD).
Although each viewer will, of course, bond with different characters, I was most moved by the “triangle” between the two teasingly incestuous brothers, Sphinx and Angel (who utters the classic line, “I didn’t know I was dead till I was fifteen.”), and the artist Viv. There was real connection and tenderness between all three of them, despite what many people would consider the highly “problematic” nature of their relationship. The brothers read as a gay couple (one of the sweetest depicted on screen up to that time), and Jarman describes Viv as a “butch dyke.” Yet they go to bed together; although the morning after Sphinx and Angel again seem more interested in each other than in Viv (see the frame to the left). What makes their relationship so poignant is that Jarman then goes on to show us their day together, which is the most genial sequence in the film.
They also introduce us to the most hilarious character, Max – the Bingo king and former pimp, who now has a huge garden entirely of artificial flowers. (Max is played to the hilt by Neil Kennedy, who was a comparable character with the same name in Jarman’s previous film, Sebastiane.) Uou will not soon forget what happens when Max, horrified, spots a caterpillar on one of his plastic plants. The relationship of Viv, Sphinx and Angel continues to deepen throughout the rest of the film. Yet on another, more allusive and perhaps political, level, they suggest more than the ‘two blokes and a bird off on a lark.’ Sphinx suggests classical myth (recall the mysterious oracular monster which Oedipus fatefully kills), Angel of course brings to mind Christian symbolism, while Viv comes from the Latin word for life. Jarman would probably never forgive me for pressing this point too hard, but the names imply a healthy, happy synthesis of classical and Christian traditions. Yet before we accuse Jarman of covert optimism, on such a grand symbolic scale, take another look at the frame above. The three characters’ relationship, although deeply caring, never becomes one of true equality: The two men, on one level, can be seen as using the woman (“dyke” or not) as a way of enhancing their own (masculine, even incestuous) relationship. (You will know this paradigm if you have read Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s classic 1985 study, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire.) But for me, this emotionally tangled dimension only makes their relationship all the more affecting, especially in the context of the film’s conclusion (which I will not divulge).
The film’s most overwhelming moment comes from an unlikely source: Mad. At one point, she and Amyl go off on a vendetta against two of the fascistic police officers. They find one, alone, taking a pee. Mad whips out her knife, as she and Amyl jump him, wrestle him to the ground, kicking and screaming. Then Mad, in a frenzy, castrates him. Although this is not Jubilee’s only scene of “ultra violence,” the result is unprecedented – as you can see in the frame to the right. Mad breaks down – the only time any character does this in the film – and cries and cries, clutching herself, rolling. Shockingly, this moment feels absolutely real. Significantly for the film, as actress Toyah Willcox (Mad) notes in the documentary on the DVD, Jarman shot a huge amount of film for this project. But this was the only instance where he included the “extended” footage. By implication, Jarman forces us to confront the full human toll taken by life in a completely anarchic world, without any order or social restraint. Although much of the film has depicted an ebullient, even enticing, picture of life in this near-future wasteland, this scene stops us cold. It forces us to reconsider the price of absolute “freedom” – and the deeply complex connections between anarchy and beauty – even as it humanizes the most dehumanized character in the film. It’s an extraordinary, raw, literally visceral scene, and one which I will not soon forget.
No one can live in such a world, even in its ultimately commercialized form as 1970s Punk, with mass-produced albums and Punk boutiques. But Jarman ends his film on a much more subtly problematic note. In a hauntingly beautiful coda, we see our Elizabethan time travelers back in their own “Golden Age,” as they walk along a placidly beautiful sea coast. But Elizabeth longs for a still earlier, and more pure, time, when she asks, “Oh, John Dee, do you remember those days? The whispered secrets at Oxford, like the sweet sea breeze? Codes and counter-codes.” The ‘doubleness’ of her “codes” remark reminds us of the complexity of her reign: Does Jarman expect us not to know about the Machiavellian (or Borgian) intrigues, and murders, which marked the historical Elizabeth’s court? As Mad remarks near the film’s beginning, “There are no heroes.” – yet Jarman acknowledges how we long for them, for a leader like Elizabeth, whom he describes (in his notes on Jubilee) as “The Virgin Queen, distant yet sympathetic, the paradigm of royalty.” And what about John Dee, with his multiple nature, as another possible “hero”? He was a man half in the superstitious past (as an alchemist and magician) and half in the modern world (as one of the first scientists). Again, Jarman gives us no clear, or simple(-minded), guides for our own lives.
Threaded through the gorgeous images of Jubilee, Jarman presents, in tantalizing bits and pieces, a view of history and its connection to modern (or even post-modern) society. Here is how Mad continues her mythoclastic remark quoted above: “There are no heroes. We now know too much about them…. Amyl Nitrate. She’s our heroine.” But when we meet Amyl a moment later, in the first major scene in the modern sequence, she tells us: “Make your desires reality…. I myself prefer the song, ‘Don’t Dream It, Be It’ [NOTE: That is the finale of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, written by Richard O’Brien, who in Jubilee plays John Dee]. In [the past] desires weren’t allowed to become reality, so fantasy was substituted for them – films, books, pictures. They called it ‘art.’ But when your desires become reality, you don’t need fantasy any longer, or art… on my fifteenth birthday law and order were abolished.” The artist Viv, when she’s hanging out with Angel and Sphinx, may be speaking for Jarman when she says, “Our only hope is to recreate ourselves as artists or anarchists, if you like, and release the energy for all.”
Amyl directly addresses the slippery nature of history – not to mention the relativity of “anarchy” and “beauty” which pulses at the core of this film – when she later remarks, “History still fascinates me. It’s so intangible. You can weave facts anywhere you like. Good guys can swap places with bad guys.”
I hope that extracting a few of Jarman’s most provocative ideas helps to reveal that Jubilee is not only a film of wit, energy, and striking visual originality, but a deeply thoughtful drama about some of the fundamental social and philosophical problems which have bedeviled people for millennia.
Although a master of ambiguity, at other times Jarman sharpens his vision to crystal clarity, as with the satirical – yet deepy disturbing – character of the megalomaniac Borgia Ginz (wittily, Jarman calls his production company “Megalovision”). Brogia gives voice to the darkest, most disintegrative potential in our world, even as he gleefully exploits it. As he says, “This is the generation that grew up and forgot to lead their lives. They were so busy watching my endless movie. It’s power, babe. Power. I don’t create it. I own it. I sucked and sucked and I sucked. The media became their only reality and I own their world of flickering shadows.” But Jarman’s vision is not devoid of hope, at least as it potentially exists through art and self-understanding.
Look at these two images which parallel each other’s gracefully curving paths: The one on the left – its flaming baby carriage a charged image for what this alternate future is capable of – is almost our first look at the London wasteland.
The frame on the right – serene yet melancholy, and influenced by our knowledge that “there are no heroes” and that “Good guys can swap places with bad buys” – is the final shot.
Which path will we – both personally and as a society – choose? And will we understand the implications of Jarman’s vision – the tenderness which can exist even in the horrific modern wasteland, and the violence which can underlie even an Elizabeth’s reign?
Will we see that beauty and anarchy are two sides of the same double mirror?
- Directed by Jarman
- Written by Jarman & James Whalley
- Produced by Howard Malin & James Whalley
- Cinematography by Peter Middleton
- Production & Costume Design by Christopher Hobbs
- Sound recordist John Hayes
- Supervising Editor Tom Priestley
- Edited by Nick Barnard
- Film & Title Music by Brian Eno
- With Songs by Adam and the Ants, Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, Suzi Pinns, Maneaters, Chelsea, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Amilcar
- Jenny Runacre as both Queen Elizabeth I & Bod (Bodicea)
- Jordan as Amyl Nitrate
- Toyah Willcox as Mad
- Little Nell (Nell Campbell) as Crabs
- Adam Ant (Stuart Leslie Goddard) as Kid
- Hermine Demoriane as Chaos
- Ian Charleson as Angel
- Karl Johnson as Sphinx
- Linda Spurrier as Viv
- Richard O’Brien as John Dee
- David Haughton (David Brandon) as Ariel
- Neil Kennedy as Max
- Orlando (Jack Birkett) as Borgia Ginz
- Wayne County as Lounge Lizard
Music plays an integral part in Jubilee, and all of Jarman’s films. Here is the soundtrack listing, from the Caroline label CD (1997) — but it does not include the violin solo heard under Amyl’s dance (beginning 11 minutes into the film).
- “Deutscher Girls”
Performed by Adam and the Ants
Written by Ant
Produced by Guy Ford
- “Paranoia Paradise”
Performed by Wayne County and the Electric Chairs
Written by County
Produced by Miles Copeland and Peter Crowley
- “Right to Work”
Performed by Chelsea
Written by October
Produced by Miles Copeland and Mark Perry
- “Nine to Five”
Performed by Maneaters
Written by Ant/Wilcox
Produced by Miles Copeland and Mark Perry
- “Plastic Surgery”
Performed by Adam and the Ants
Written by Ant
Produced by Danny Beckerman and Wil Malone
- “Rule Britannia”
Performed by Suzi Pinns
Written by Arne/Thomson
Arranged by Danny Beckerman
Produced by Danny Beckerman and Wil Malone
Performed by Suzi Pinns
Written by Blake/Parry
Arranged by Danny Beckerman
Produced by Danny Beckerman and Wil Malone
- “Wargasm in Pornotopia”
Performed by Amilcar
Written by Amilcar
Produced by Guy Ford
- “Slow Water”
Performed by Brian Eno
Written and produced by Brian Eno
- “Dover Beach”
Performed by Brian Eno
Written and produced by Brian Eno
PLEASE NOTE that — as of April 2008, and after having listened to dozens of contenders — I’m still trying to track down the classical violin piece used under Amyl’s dance (beginning 11 minutes into Jubilee). Jarman closely based this haunting scene on his short silent film “Jordan’s Dance,” made earlier the same year (1977). He used different classical pieces under “Jordan’s Dance” at different screenings, with the most frequent being the Adagio from Brahms’s Violin Concerto, although that is not the piece used in Jubilee. Thanks to Tee Dee in Australia and Stephen in the UK for asking about this musical cue: it will be found out!
There are currently several Jarman video releases, to own (on DVD and Blu-ray), rent, stream, or borrow from your library, as well as Jarman books. NOTE: If you use my Amazon Affiliate Jarman link for a purchase, I may receive a commission that helps support this site, at no additional cost to you. Regardless, I stand by my opinions.
Original Video Release (Used for This Review)
The Criterion Collection has created an exceptional DVD release of Jubilee, with beautifully restored picture and sound (supervised by the original cinematographer) and a wealth of fascinating supplemental materials, most notably Jarman’s own annotated screenplay – a work of art in its own right, with pasted-in found objects. All of the extra features, detailed below, are of genuine interest.
- Widescreen anamorphic format in the theatrical release aspect ratio of 1.66:1, from a new high-definition master taken from the original 16mm camera negative
- Soundtrack mastered in Dolby Digital Mono 1.0 at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic audio master, which was also digitally restored
- The digitallly restored transfer was supervised by the film’s director of photography, Peter Middleton
- “Jordan’s Dance” (1977), Jarman’s rare short film, shot on super 8, which he re-edited for use in Jubilee
- “Jubilee: A Time Less Golden”, a special 38-minute documentary on Jarman and Jubiliee made by Jarman actor Spencer Leigh exclusively for this DVD
- Ephemera from Derek Jarman’s personal collection, including costume sketches and continuity stills
- Selections from Jarman’s personally annotated screenplay – a work of art in its own right, with pasted-in found objects and his pre-production Polaroids and sketches as well as the script
- Excellent liner notes by Jarman biographer Tony Peake
- Original theatrical trailer
- Tilda Swinton’s speech (exclusively at the Criterion Collection Web site) given at the “In the Spirit of Derek Jarman” event at the Edinburgh Film Festival in August 2002. (You can see the actual film of Ms. Swinton’s speech on the Edward II DVD.) Swinton was a long-time Jarman collaborator and friend, who appeared in nine of his films, including Caravaggio, The Last of England, Edward II, and Wittgenstein); she also starred in Orlando (1992) and The Deep End (2001). To give you a taste of Swinton’s speech, here is one of her comments on Jarman: “You were the first person I met who could gossip about St. Thomas Aquinas and hold a steady camera at the same time, as you did at our first meeting.”
- Film divided into 27 chapters
- $39.95 suggested retail
Reviewed June 5, 2003 / Revised October 12, 2020