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Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations

2009
Author:

Jim Ellis

Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations

A comprehensive look at the work of Britain’s most controversial director

Best known as an iconoclastic, wildly inventive filmmaker, Derek Jarman was also an accomplished author, painter, and landscape artist. In Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations, Jim Ellis considers Jarman’s wide-ranging oeuvre to present a broad perspective on the career and life of one of the most provocative, engaged, and important artists of the twentieth century.

Here finally is a comprehensive, full-length study of Derek Jarman’s prolific and ever-relevant oeuvre. Jim Ellis bases his insightful analysis on a detailed textual dissection of the films themselves, and shows how they embody in an integrated, complex way Jarman’s aesthetic innovation, his bold queer erotic vision and his historical roots in radical cultural politics—from Gay Liberation to anti-Thatcher punk protest to AIDS activism. Ellis’s book is an angelic conversation in itself: his rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship and lucid, perceptive writing are inextricable from his passionate personal engagement with one of the most influential and charismatic European artists of the latter third of the twentieth century.

Thomas Waugh, author of The Romance of Transgression in Canada: Queering Sexualities, Nations, Cinemas

Best known as an iconoclastic, wildly inventive filmmaker, Derek Jarman was also an accomplished author, painter, and landscape artist. In Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations, Jim Ellis considers Jarman’s wide-ranging oeuvre to present a broad perspective on the career and life of one of the most provocative, engaged, and important artists of the twentieth century.

Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations analyzes Jarman’s work—including his famous films Caravaggio, Jubilee, Edward II, Blue, and Sebastiane—in relation to his critiques of the government and his activism in the gay community, from the liberationist movement to the AIDS epidemic. While others have frequently focused on Jarman’s biography, Ellis looks at how his politics and aesthetics are intertwined to comprehend his most radical aspects, particularly in films such as War Requiem and The Last of England.

Here Jarman is revealed as an artist who keenly understood the role of history and mythology in creating a personal and national identity: as an activist, he sought to challenge old histories while producing new ones to carve out a space for alternative communities in Britain late in the twentieth century.

Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations

Jim Ellis is associate professor of English at the University of Calgary, where he teaches sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature and contemporary British film.

Derek Jarman’s Angelic Conversations

Here finally is a comprehensive, full-length study of Derek Jarman’s prolific and ever-relevant oeuvre. Jim Ellis bases his insightful analysis on a detailed textual dissection of the films themselves, and shows how they embody in an integrated, complex way Jarman’s aesthetic innovation, his bold queer erotic vision and his historical roots in radical cultural politics—from Gay Liberation to anti-Thatcher punk protest to AIDS activism. Ellis’s book is an angelic conversation in itself: his rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship and lucid, perceptive writing are inextricable from his passionate personal engagement with one of the most influential and charismatic European artists of the latter third of the twentieth century.

Thomas Waugh, author of The Romance of Transgression in Canada: Queering Sexualities, Nations, Cinemas

This book is careful, not tendentious, but compellingly resolute in valorizing Jarman.

The Criterion Collection

A brilliant, challenging, elusive artist finally gets his due respect in this lucid, wide-ranging analysis.

Choice

With his broad understanding of modern and contemporary art politics, the developing avant-garde, Renaissance literature, and the gay experience, Ellis seems uniquely fitted to this task. This definitive study of Jarman and his work will prove difficult to supplant.

Choice

Ellis does a superlative job in paying homage to the timelessness of Jarman’s quintessential artistic vision.

Wichita Liberty Press

An exhaustive study, and a welcome one. Ellis has composed a dense, intelligent reflection on Jarman’s oeuvre, a fitting ode to such an iconic artist and his ongoing legacy. It is a book that Jarman fans will greatly appreciate, and one that does justice to the filmmaker’s achievement.

The Gay & Lesbian Review

Jim Ellis has written an extraordinarily valuable genealogy of Derek Jarman’s complex oeuvre that will no doubt stand as the critical standard by which other appraisals of the mercurial filmmaker, writer, painter, and gardener will be assessed.

English Studies in Canada