blueDerek Jarman‘s 1993 final film Blue is his most experimental and autobiographical. The entire movie is one continuous blue screen – literally. On my television, that meant a sort of periwinkle night sky with flashes of light like stars in the night. Blue chronicles Jarman’s journey with CMV retinitis, a disease causing blindness from HIV. It’s taken me 22 years to muster the courage to watch Blue. For years, it felt too close to home – my own HIV chronically marching on as Jarman’s chose to extinguish his life a year after he completed Blue. I was afraid it would be too much. And after viewing or should I say listening and watching the blue screen tonight, I’m glad I waited. Blue takes us on a journey through Jarman’s hospital visits, experiences losing his sight, losing friends to AIDS, his own mortality and poetic musings on life, color, and art. Joining Jarman are Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton, and John Quentin reading from Jarman’s journals and writings supported by a gorgeous soundtrack from Simon Fisher Turner and Brian Eno. Blue is a love poem to Jarman’s final year on Earth. A mash-up of all the things that made up his life and death. At times disturbing, jarring, and lyrical, Blue feels like a radio show from the future. It’s incredible he continued to create work this powerful as his body lost its battle against AIDS. Blue is a must-see for fans of experimental film, students of indie film and AIDS history and anyone who has loved Derek Jarman’s work. I’m glad I waited to digest this masterpiece. I feel honored to still be here. Jarman calls out to everyone who survived the plague – positive or negative – to continue making our lives count for something. To make a difference in the world around us. To be present and to be remembered. 5 out of 5 for this epic experimental indie film.

Humor me as I share too many favorite passages from this remarkable film,

Tania said ‘Your clothes are on back to front and inside out”. Since there were only two of us there I took them off and put them right then and there. I am always here before the doors open.

Charity has allowed the uncaring to appear to care.

The Gautama Buddha advises me to Walk Away from Illness. But he wasn’t attached to a drip.

The virus rages fierce. I have no friends now who are not dead or dying. Like a blue frost it caught them. At work, at the cinema, on marches and beaches. In churches on their knees, running, flying, silent or shouting protest.

I shall not win the battle against the virus – in spite of the slogans like “Living with AIDS”. The virus was appropriated by the well – so we have to live with AIDS while they spread the quilt for the moths of Ithaca across the wine dark sea.

How did my friends cross the cobalt river, with what did they pay the ferryman? As they set out for the indigo shore under this jet-black sky – some died on their feet with a backward glance. Did they see Death with the hell hounds pulling a dark chariot, bruised blue-black growing dark in the absence of light, did they hear the blast of trumpets?

The darkness comes in with the tide
The year slips on the calendar
Your kiss flares
A match struck in the night
Flares and dies
My slumber broken
Kiss me again
Kiss me
Kiss me again
And again
Never enough
Greedy lips
Speedwell eyes
Blue skies

I am a mannish
Muff diving
Size queen
With bad attitude
An arse licking
Molesting the flies of privacy
Balling lesbian boys
A perverted heterodemon
Crossing purpose with death

I am a cock sucking
Straight acting
Lesbian man
With ball crushing bad manners
Laddish nymphomaniac politics
Spunky sexist desires
of incestuous inversion and
Incorrect terminology
I am a Not Gay

and my absolute favorite…

As a teenager I used to work for the Royal National Institute for the Blind on their Christmas appeal for radios, with dear miss Punch, seventy years old, who used to arrive each morning on her Harley Davidson.

She kept us on our toes. Her job as a gardener gave her time to spare in January. Miss Punch Leather Woman was the first out dyke I ever met. Closeted and frightened by my sexuality she was my hope. “Climb on, let’s go for a ride.” She looked like Edith Piaf, a sparrow, and wore a cock-eyed beret at a saucy angle. She bossed all the other old girls who came back year after year for her company.

Read more on Jarman’s Blue from the 2014 Tate Modern exhibition.
If you don’t have access to the film, you can read the script online at the Queer Cultural Center (special thanks to QCC for providing the quotes for this post)
Follow Reel Charlie’s posts on Derek Jarman’s films. 



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