The Deep, Vacuous Meditations of Angels Feeding Dogs
I’m amazed that anyone would think this is similar to “Clockwork Orange.” Kubrick’s world was one of too much sense: strong minds of people and institutions creating realities that compete, even clash with each other. His worlds are reasonable — all of them — and at least one reality in each film is self-referential, often referencing the film itself or at least the making of itself.
Jarman’s world is a huge vacuum, where order is local to certain individuals around which others gather. Even then, the worlds have no internal sense, only style or (to him) the ultimate style: sex.
He plays a sort of Kubrick game, but the conflict is between style as a life and the greater disorder of the vacuum. Despair is a motivator. Conscious disorder is a strategy. Sex is survival, sometimes.
That’s Jarman, and incidentally this movie. People, even Jarman himself, think it is about politics, but that is not so. At least if you take is so, you’ll be rewarded with vacuousness. Politics is always just a hanger for style.
I found this film rewarding and you can too if you start with his “Tempest.” Actually you really need to start with the play, then soak in Greenaway’s “Prospero” for a bit, say, three viewings. Then see Jarman’s masterpiece and come here.
This is part of his “The Tempest,” the part played by the buffoons on the beach.
Elizabeth calls Dee (actually Harriott/Prospero disguised as Dee) to increase the influence of her style into the future. He does so by creating a play, the one we (or at least Brits) happen to live in. Americans are relatively immune from the style of monarchy, we invent new christian religions instead. So we don’t get this joke as readily.
Elizabeth plays the part of Bod, Boadicea, she of revenge. Toyah plays Mad, Magdalene the motivation, who (in the next episode) plays the mastermagical Miranda. Five women all together with a couple the “Zed and Two Noughts”- inspired queer brothers and their ViV. All just horsing around. What they do is irrelevant, because there is no sense here, so any motive evaporates.
Instead we get the deliberately shown shallowness (in Ken Russell fashion) of the punk style, surrounded with a torrent of clever visual ideas, sometimes absolutely shocking. The super 8 stuff, the mirror stuff, the leap from POV, the endless movie.
He even knows and shows the connection between Monopoly and Harriott.
Someone else — Russell? — must have clued him into the trick used on the then new “Day for Night,” the template for magic about magic: there all the women had magic, the extent shown by how red their hair. See how he uses that here, all the way to the bingo parlour. Watch the Lounge Lizard’s wig over wig.
Posted in 2003
Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.