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  Jubilee God Save The Queen
Year: 1977
Director: Derek Jarman
Stars: Jenny Runacre, Nell Campbell, Toyah Willcox, Jordan, Hermine Demoriane, Ian Charleson, Karl Johnson, Linda Spurrier, Neil Kennedy, Jack Birkett, Wayne County, Richard O'Brien, David Brandon, Helen Wellington-Lloyd, Adam Ant, Claire Davenport
Genre: Comedy, Drama, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Queen Elizabeth the First (Jenny Runacre) has her right hand man Dr John Dee (Richard O'Brien) use mysticism to conjure up an angel (Ian Charleson). She is delighted and enchanted, no more so when the angel transports them to the future where they see what has become of their beloved England, yet it's not a pretty sight with violence and devastation all around. Part of this is Amyl Nitrite (Jordan), who when not writing a history text in her own inimitable fashion is teaching her minions about their place in this new Britain, including pyromaniac Mad (Toyah Willcox) and nymphomaniac Crabs (Nell Campbell). There's revolution in the air but will anything come to fruition?

Well, there was this film at least, the first punk movie that not so much showcased the music, although that is included to some extent, but attempted to tackle the radical philosophy also. Under the direction of Derek Jarman, who also penned the script, this is no self-aggrandising cash-in in the style of Malcolm McLaren's Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, but takes the punk movement seriously, so seriously in fact that it tends to lose the way at times, with a disjointed presentation verging on the incoherent while it mercilessly exposes punk's flaws. Where it does score is in its gritty imagery, and if the music takes second place to that, then it's spirited in other ways.

The shock value is there, of course, because without the desire to be subversive and controversial, it's doubtful that anyone would have taken much notice - nobody really wants to hear Amyl reading out her history lesson for over an hour and a half. Or if they did, they'd be better off buying a book. Among her gang is Bod, played by Runacre again, but not presumably named after the bald, yellow dress-wearing cartoon character; she seems to be the brains of the outfit, and the others look up to her, despite the claims of their being no more heroes anymore.

That's not to say there aren't any heroines, naturally, and the first time we see Bod she has appropriated the Queen's crown to wear, making her the unofficial monarch of the piece, not least because we see her as a real Queen in odd scenes dotted about the story. I say story, but it's really a selection of vignettes in dubious taste, the closest Britain ever came to the mood of a contemporary John Waters' movie, only without the glee. There's sex and violence, the traditional benchmarks of controversy, but also ideas if you can make them out, the trouble being that it's a bit of a muddle in the main.

For a revolutionary movement, this bunch do an awful lot of hanging around just killing time. The coarse humour falls flat, and it can easily be accused of something punks would abhor: pretentiousness, although a sense of self-awareness and self-parody is strongly hinted at amongst the pontificating. More than a few scenes hit the mark, and additionally it's a neat summing up of the faces of the era, with the Slits as a girl gang (not playing any tunes, however), pre-fame Adam Ant as the object of Crabs' lust, and Toyah as a borderline psychotic bundle of energy. Everyone contributes to the anarchy, or as much anarchy as can be mustered on a few World War II bomb sites, a cafe and a launderette, but now Jubilee, once so sly, modern and of the moment, looks like a antique, an item of nostalgia, and perhaps worst of all, an art movie.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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