Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Punks on film

Derek Jarman's Jubilee: now in serious competition around Pogo HQ with Fanmail for Most Dreamily Wished-For Yet Almost Unfindable Obscure Indie Film. Queer activist and film pioneer Jarman ruled the (British!) post-punk music video scene, producing clips for Orange Juice, the Smiths, Marianne Faithfull, and the Pet Shop Boys as well as controversial meditations on icons like St. Sebastian, Edward II, Caravaggio and Wittgenstein before his death from AIDS in 1994. Smartie actress Tilda Swinton, who worked with Jarman on Caravaggio, has an amazingly poignant, witty, dishy and in-depth tribute here.

1978's Jubilee was scored by Brian Eno and promises a stunning who's who of first-wave punk faces and haircuts, including those of W/Jayne County, the Slits, and an outrageously young 'n femmey Adam Ant. And seriously, somebody should retroactively subtitle it "A Punk Fantasia on National Themes" (with apologies to Tony Kushner):

Jubilee doesn't bemoan the rise of a punk counterculture as indicative of England's failures. In the film, what goes wrong is not punk, but England. Here the subculture is posited as a reaction to a social and political environment of diminishing returns. Jubilee depicts a post-apocalyptic England, rife with class warfare and directly reflective of the deep recession and state-imposed three-day workweeks of the year of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. Working class London literally burns while the rich idle away at country estates. Global ruler and media mogul Borgia Ginz (Jack Birkett) has turned Buckingham Palace into a huge recording studio, and Westminster Abbey into a gay go-go boy nightclub. Borgia recognizes his own power and influence when he asserts, "If the music's loud enough, we won't hear the world falling apart."

-Todd Ramlow, PopMatters

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