“You wanna know my story babe?
It’s easy. This is the generation that grew up and forgot to lead their lives. They were so busy watching my endless media. Its power babe. I don’t create it, I own it! I sucked and sucked and sucked. The media became their only reality.”
– Borgia Ginz
Unlike Dom Dirk, I cannot relate the exact date that I first saw a particular film on television, but in the case of JUBILEE, I know the era. Much of my education about films, especially European cinema, was formed thanks to late night showings on Channel 4. In the mid-eighties, the channel featured a film slot on a Friday night where ‘special discretion’ was required and a helpful triangle hovered in the corner to warn off those people who have a sensitive disposition. Jarman films were the mainstay of these Channel Four seasons.
There was something about this film that captured my imagination. Elizabeth 1st is transported to England of the future by Dr Dee (played by a suitably crow-like Richard O’Brien) and the angel, Ariel, who he summons from the ether, looking like a drop-out from the Ashes to Ashes video. She walks gracefully through the destruction of a parallel punk version of London, where punk-looters roam the streets leaving a trail of destruction in their wake (very far-fetched, of course, but convincing nevertheless).
This is a future where art and history have been wiped out but are practiced by subversives. At the centre of the film is a collection of odd-ball miss-fits who share a living space, screwing each other under impractical plastic sheets while London burns: Adam Ant is seduced by Crabs while a skin-headed Toyah Wilcox shouts militaristic mantra; Amyl Nitrite, played by the punk-muse Jordan, features in the stand-out set-piece singing an electronic -racket version of Rule Britannia (scored by Brian Eno).
When I was a student in the mid-eighties, this film had a real affect on me as I wanted to remake a version of it set in Salford with a VHS. How more Punk can you get? How much more British can you get – high camp mixed with Kubrick and is a bit rubbish?
It is simplistic and it is deliberately shocking – smashing the face of Winston Churchill and extolling Myra Hindley as some kind of cultural icon, but it is not a film that can be forgotten easily and its striking use of imagery and language has earned it a place on Dirk’s list.