(1993)3.5Wheeler Winston DixonTragic, angry, sad, and ultimately unclassifiable, Blue was radical queer filmmaker Derek Jarman's last project, as the ravages of AIDS carried him off to an agonizing death. His work toward the end of his life is shot through with longing and melancholy: Edward II (1991), also known as Queer Edward II, is loosely based on Christopher Marlowe's play, and uses it, quite appropriately, as a platform for gay activism; and Wittgenstein (1993), Jarman's last film with conventional visuals, deals not only with the philosopher's ideas, but also with Wittgenstein's identity as a homosexual man. However, during the shooting of both these films, Jarman was losing his eyesight due to the disease, and on both projects he had to employ a "ghost" director to work from his storyboards when he was ill. By the time of Blue, his vision had deteriorated completely, until all he could see was a pale shade of translucent blue before his eyes, and nothing else. Thus, this film, which consists entirely of a blue screen for 80 minutes, is a final farewell to the cinema, and offers Jarman one last chance to rage against the dying of the light, and the homophobia that informs society as a whole. In addition to Jarman's voice on the soundtrack, Tilda Swinton, Nigel Terry, and John Quentin offer contributions, along with scraps of sound effects and music. The effect is almost unendurable, but then, that's the point; dying of AIDS is a horrifying experience, and Jarman wants to make it very clear that he's not going out without a fight. Blue is a one-of-a-kind film, and a daring visual and social experiment; as such, it is recommended for all serious students of cinema and those interested in the social and historical issues that surrounded the gay community in the 1990s.
A year before director Derek Jarman succumbed fully to AIDS, he made his last film. In Blue, the color blue is all there is to see as Jarman tries to bring the audience into his vision-impaired world. Jarman offers his insights on life, love, disease, the meaning of art, and the symbology of the color blue over a blue screen. Actors, including Tilda Swinton and John Quentin, also read from Jarman's journals and poetry.