Join us every Monday, as we look at a cult movie. Our film of the week this time is a punk dystopia featuring Toyah and Adam Ant!
Director: Derek Jarman
Cast: Jenny Runacre, Toyah Willcox, Jordan, Nell Campbell
Available on region one and region two DVD
Watch a clip from the film here
Back in 1977, Johnny Rotten wailed “there is no future in England’s dreaming”. Jubilee is Derek Jarman’s bleak daydream of that punk no-future, set in a lawless near-future England where the air is thick with smoke and machine-gun toting gangs roam the streets. It recalls other dystopian visions of Britain, such as Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and some of the works of JG Ballard.
It’s a curious film: verbose, plotless and schizoid. It combines poetic dialogue and intellectualism with a hooligan blood-lust and a sociopathic need to shock. One moment it comes on all obtuse and sociological like some late ’60s Jean-Luc Godard film, the next minute it’s She Devils On Wheels in bondage trousers. It cuts between state-of-the-world speeches and random flashes of sex and violence, so there are some disconcerting jolts as the film suddenly shifts gears. One minute you’re listening to a lecture about England’s decline and fall, the next minute you’re watching a polysexual orgy or a copper being castrated with a switchblade.
The casting is odd too, with self-conscious amateurs and punk musicians rubbing shoulders with RADA lovies spitting working class gor-blimeyisms in ersatz cockney. They mix like petrol and water, and because the film pulls in different directions from one moment to the next you feel it could tear apart at any second. There’s an amusing moment in one scene, where Adam Ant cracks up in unscripted laughter listening to a pompous speech about urban deprivation and alienation.
Shot-through with Jarman’s defiantly queer avant-gardeism, Jubilee is too pretentious to really be categorised as a punk film, but nevertheless it captures the dejected nihilism of late-seventies Britain better than any film of the period. Flawed but fascinating, deliriously self-indulgent and perverse, it’s the cinematic equivalent of having a mouthful of bile gobbed in your eye.
Ian Berriman, reviews editor of SFX and cult movie nut, has watched Jess Franco’s Female Vampire four or five times, but never seen Casablanca. The nutter.
Click here to see our other cult movie write-ups. And if you like oddball movies, check out Total Film’s regular Trash Talk feature.