Derek Jarman’s “Glitterbug” is a perfect companion piece to “Blue,” satisfyingly capping off the late English iconoclast’s screen work. This lissome montage of Jarman’s Super 8 footage fused with a multitextured Brian Eno score constitutes a breathless journey taking in the director’s films, friends and favored stomping grounds. It should be welcomed as a fitting final addition to his eclectic output.
Associate director David Lewis and editor Andy Crabb worked with Jarman through the latter half of 1993 to distill “Glitterbug” from some 15 hours of home movies shot between 1970 and 1985. BBC execs added subtitles to identify time, place and people appearing onscreen before airing the film in March, soon after Jarman’s death. The definitive version, however, contains no commentary apart from Eno’s music.
The film’s appropriateness as a farewell legacy derives from the intimate nature of the video-diary format and its affectionate chronicle of Jarman’s world prior to its gradual disfigurement by AIDS. It also achieves a yin-yang balance with “Blue” that enhances both films’ communicative power.
One is entirely without images while the other is without words. One is a pristine techno creation built to house a lifetime of reflections, the other is a freewheeling lyrical memoir fashioned from what’s essentially a slapdash first film, as the initial footage predates Jarman’s 1976 debut feature, “Sebastiane.” Shoots of both “Sebastiane” and “Jubilee” are glimpsed. The former amusingly conveys a climate of maverick creativity and untroubled sexuality; the latter recaps the advent of punk, particularly as a London phenomenon.
Despite jaunts to Italy, Spain and the English countryside, London remains an omnipresent factor in “Glitterbug.” The film eloquently captures the city’s physical presence, from moody, gray Thames scenes to orderly parks and gardens to starkly ugly housing estates. It glances back at the pre-AIDS days of parties , drugs and drag, typified by gutter-glam footage of Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World contest.
Perhaps the most arresting sequences are those devoted to Tilda Swinton, who has appeared in all of Jarman’s films beginning with “Caravaggio.” She’s first seen straddling a boar, heroically brandishing a sword, then playfully darting around a garden maze at her family castle in Scotland.
Crabb’s seamless editing cleverly exploits the technical limitations of Super 8, using occasional lack of definition to create the illusion of images melding into one other. Blowup quality is fine given the footage’s origins.