Liam Rudden: Enjoy the creative genius of Jarman

Derek Jarman. Pic: Comp
Derek Jarman. Pic: Comp
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LIKE many of my generation, it was the 1978 film Jubilee that introduced me to the work of film-maker, artist and gardener, Derek Jarman.

Now considered a cult classic, it featured a very young Toyah Willcox, equally youthful Adam Ant, and starred Jenny Runacre and Edinburgh’s own Ian Charleson - he who would later go on to fame and fortune as Olympic athlete and missionary Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire.

It’s worth mentioning also that, on the order of the studio, all mention of Jubilee had been excised from Charleson’s CV by the time the publicity machine cranked up for Putnam’s Oscar-winner. Such was the controversial nature of Jarman’s work.

Ironically, perhaps, Charleson died in 1990, at the age of 40, the first UK celebrity death openly attributed to AIDS. Four years later Jarman would join him. However, over a period of 17 years, he managed to produce an impressive body of work which, while often challenging, was always liberating.

In Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth I finds herself transported forward in time by occultist John Dee, played by Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien, to 70s in which Elizabeth II has been killed in a mugging.

Very much couched in the punk ethic of the time, discovering it a few years after it was made while still a teenager, changed my view of what cinema should and could be.

If that intrigues you, there’s a rare chance to see Jubilee on a big screen at the Filmhouse on Sunday, where it is just one in a Drambuie-sponsored season of Jarman films showing over the next two weeks.

Others worth catching include The Tempest (1979), Edward II (1991) and The Last of England (1987).

As former Edinburgh Film Festival organiser Jim Hickey said while launching the season last Sunday, Jarman’s films may not always be easy to watch, but they give a fascinating insight into one of our great creative talents.