Derek Jarman - 'Glitterbug'

Glitterbug, Derek Jarman (UK, 1993 [1970 – 1986], 60 min., video) 

Glitterbug is the last film the British director Derek Jarman made before his recent death. It is constructed from fragments of super-8 films shot by Jarman between 1970 and 1986 and contains a specially composed soundtrack by Brian Eno.

Opening with a shot of Jarman himself in a mirror, the film proceeds to document Jarman’s private life and his career as an artist and director. In the first part, we are witness to the funny Alternative Miss World contest and other scenes which give an impression of the extravagant and decadent years of the 1970s. It was during this period that Jarman made his first feature film ‘Sebastiane’.

The arrival of the Punk period marks a radical break with the past. The political message becomes more and more central, while punks and anarchists move into Jarman’s world and hence his home movies. Alongside footage from the set of ‘Jubilee’ and live recordings of Psychic TV, are impressions of Jarman’s travels in Rome, Barcelona, Siena and Greece.

Glitterbug is amongst other things, a document of a unique period in gay history. The 1960s had seen an important decline in the repression of homosexuals and this lead to a strong sense of gay identity. The decadent, fun-loving and frivolous nature of the gay lifestyle was then shattered by the arrival of AIDS. As the virus spread, so too did social intolerance towards gays.

The film construction and editing style make Glitterbug an elegant and relaxed portrayal of an age that is now long gone. The film is therefore of historical, as well as artistic, importance.

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