DEREK (Isaac Julien, UK). 76 minutes. May 23, 5:15 pm, Isabel Bader. Rating: NNNN
Whatever your thoughts about iconoclastic filmmaker Derek Jarman, you can’t not be shaken up by this uncompromising tribute/homage to the late director by his friends Isaac Julien and Tilda Swinton.
The film is structured around a previously unseen interview with Jarman, conducted in 1991, in which he talks at length about his life and work. HIV-positive for six years then (he died of complications from AIDS three years later), he is as candid as ever, opening up about sex, art and activism.
Julien layers the interview with bits of rare home footage from Jarman’s family and school life, choice excerpts from his films (including the seminal queer pic Sebastiane) and glimpses of the director on various picket lines.
Interwoven with all this, Swinton reads from her 2002 Letter To An Angel, which passionately captures Jarman’s life and spirit, while Julien films her walking pensively around London and Jarman’s Dungeness home.
An original documentary about a fiercely original artist.