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January 19, 2006

The Last of England

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Derek Jarman - 1987
Second Sight PAL Region 0 DVD

I have a hope that some of the people who have only recently discovered Tilda Swinton will explore her formidable career more deeply. At the very least, there would be more exposure of films not seen at most neighborhood multiplexes. What would those who condemn Brokeback Mountain or Transamerica make of Orlando, The Deep End or The War Zone? Arguments about agendas are specious, and not exclusive to a certain group of filmmakers. It doesn't matter whether you are discussing a box office hit or a visibly gay filmmaker.

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The Last of England is a highly fragmented vision of England under Margaret Thatcher. Homes are burned down, there are soldiers or are they mercenaries on the streets, and people trying to survive in the rubble. Jarman shot the film in Super 8mm transfered to video tape which was transfered to film. The soundtrack includes voiceover readings by Nigel Terry comprised of poems and letters, including a quotation from Allen Ginsburg's "Howl", a radio speech by Hitler, and songs from Marianne Faithfull and Diamanda Galas. Some of the footage includes Jarman's home movies, shot when he was a child. This is a film created from anger. In one of the supplements on the DVD, Tilda Swinton mentions how a critic complained about the image of England created by The Last of England, Raining Stones, and Sammy and Rosie get Laid.

And while Jarman made his film about his own country twenty years ago, The Last of England has resonance for contemporary American viewers. The shots of homeless people huddled together, watched over by paramilitary men with machine guns is not disimilar to events in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Jarman is critical about a very questionable war. The film's vision of a land of the wealthy few and the disenfranchised many may be seen as a slight exaggeration of life under conservative rule.

In addition to Tilda Swinton's reading of her tribute to Derek Jarman, the DVD includes a brief interview with Jarman shot about a year prior to his death, and Jarman's ten minute silent short, A Journey to Avebury (1971).

Posted by peter at January 19, 2006 02:27 PM