Against a plain, unchanging blue screen, a densely interwoven soundtrack of voices, sound effects and music attempt to convey a portrait of Derek Jarman's experiences with AIDS, both literally and allegorically, together with an exploration of the meanings associated with the colour blue.
There is nothing I can write here that hasn't been written before about this film. A masterpiece. A seemingly 'dull' film. A brave and courageous final farewell from a great man.
Art for Arts Sake? Ars Gratia Artis? No. Absolutely not. This is a film made by a dying man while practically on his deathbed. His sight robbed of him, what more could an experimental film-maker do?
A powerful script telling of his life ('I'm sitting in a cafe....'), the things around him (the cyclist who nearly knocks him over to then hurl abuse at him), his lifestyle (I am a cock sucking straight acting lesbian man, I am a not-gay).
Jarman's Voice Over is the most provocative text about one's own death I know of. Of course, he knew he was dying. His doctors told him he was dying. He goes into graphic details of his medications, his symptoms, his pains. Never again can a film maker describe their own death in such a way, Jarman has done it and done it brilliantly.
The Blueness also plays a part. After a few minutes I felt angry, annoyed at having to stare at a screen of blue. I tried looking at the floor, closing my eyes, anything to avoid the blue. But I kept looking back.
A Masterpiece. Simple as that.
- True Blue, baby I love you
Jarman's masterpiece was always going to attract a lazy criticism from the mainstream mindset: pretentious, trendy, self-indulgent etc.
But to dismiss it out of hand as no better than a first year art student's project is to fail to appreciate the rich narrative.
The coldness of the blue focusses the mind on what Jarman has to tell us, perhaps far better than any other colour would've done. We cannot help but listen, and take in one very gifted man's grim yet positive perspective on gay life, and a slow death through AIDS.
Brian Eno's musical score is stark and haunting, with passages of female vocal harmony that are strongly influenced by contempory sacred music from Eastern Europe.
Watch this film with an open mind: Force yourself to keep staring into the blue yonder, and it will empower you with a new level of vision and perspective.
- A touching farewell
Derek Jarman's final work is perhaps his most unusual. The visuals are nothing but a solid screen of bright blue. The soundtrack is a montage of sound effects, voice overs, and music. The dialogue is Derek Jarman's coming to terms with himself, and his terminal illness.
Some will find the whole affair a pretentious bore. Others will find it a moving farewell from a groundbreaking British film-maker who was completely blind by the time the film was completed. He broke the rules, especially with this film, and it's probably how he wanted to be remembered.
- a final masterpiece
Jarman's "Blue," a feature consisting entirely of a blue screen with voice-overs, has succeeded in annoying viewers with its seemingly uninventive approach to the cinematic personal narative. As so much of what we have come to consider "good" filmaking relies primarily on our sense of sight and our ability to absorb and process hundreds of CGI critters flashing before our eyes, it is easy to forget that a "good film" relies as much if not more so on the story than it does on the visuals.
Jarman's story is one that does not need visuals to support it. Reflecting upon his life in the face of his rapidly approaching death, Jarman's memories and meditations offer the viewer (listener, really) a window into the soul of a director who is losing the most important sense he could posses: his sight. Blue was the last color available to him before AIDS related complications robbed him of his sight. As he stands before death and stares it straight in the face, Jarman's writings put forth a suprising feeling of calmness, as he has accepted his own finitude and shares his meditations with us in this, his last masterpiece.
- Losing his eyesight, Derek Jarman made this remarkable short
feature in which his diaristic reminiscences, and commentary on
his current degeneration from AIDS symptoms, are set against a
placid musical score and a cool, empty blue background.
An obviously simple idea, but what an amazingly rich one: Jarman
has created the closest movie experience to a director talking to
the inside of your head. The concomitant feelings of control-losing
peace and terrifying hallucination (one obviously starts to project
images into the blue blankness) are...well, so obviously apt, aren't
they? For a film about spirit, and about the interiorness of
everyone's reactions, BLUE is remarkably controlled in its effects.
It provides an experience adult viewers haven't had much since
childhood--of letting go and getting lost.
- Experimental, yet brilliant, visual experience.
Many people complained about the triteness or cliche nature of the device of using an all-blue screen for the seventy-some odd minutes of this film. I'd guess that most of these people never saw the film on the big screen.
If you did see this on a big screen, however, you were sure to notice the tricks your eyes played on you. Jarman, directing this film as he lost his eyesight (and what could be worse for a director?), last saw the color blue. As you watch the film, your eyes become saturated with the color blue, and begin to try and compensate for the overstimulation, shifting to oranges, showing illusionary shapes in the blank field of the screen, and ultimately betraying you. What better allegory for the loss of one's vision, especially when it means everything to you?
- An amazing "movie"...
Derek Jarman's "Blue" is amazing. the blue screen amplifies the sad and vivid sound-track. at times fast, at times slow. Jarman's dark sense of humor peaks out every now and then. very hard to watch the whole movie with out a break. a great sound-track for a long drive in the car.
Complete credited cast:
John Quentin .... (voice)
Nigel Terry .... (voice)
Derek Jarman .... (voice)
Tilda Swinton .... (voice)
Runtime: USA:79 min
Color: Color (Technicolor)