Like the earlier compilation piece In the Shadow of the Sun, Glitterbug represents a cinematic medley of Super-8 footage by Derek Jarman, as set this time around to the music of Brian Eno. It is, as you would expect, a film that in truth is better suited to Jarman purists, namely those who are already familiar with his work and will here take delight in this unique look at the man behind, or indeed at times in front of the camera.
For here we see scenes of Jarman and others at home, in his studio, with friends and on-location in footage that spans the years 1970 to 1986. At times in colour, at times almost monochrome, frequently slowed down, sometimes time-lapse, often grainy, here is Derek Jarman rejoicing in the Super-8 medium and with a smile on his face to prove it, one that he undoubtedly had whilst filming the more homoerotic sections included in this work. From the like of a group of male friends dancing with each other to the sight of two men kissing, the homosexual element central to Jarman's career is on clear view and no-more so than in sequences celebrating the male physique, from lingering shots of a well-toned torso to full-frontal male nudity.
Yet of key note are a series of behind-the-scenes shots from such Jarman classics as Sebastiane, Jubilee and
Caravaggio, fascinating on-location footage that showcases amongst others 'school of Jarman' regular Tilda Swinton, appropriate given she is on record as having remarked that the reason Jarman made films was "for the company." For it is the sense of camaraderie that emanates throughout this work, as Jarman is clearly interested in everyone present and inparticular what they could contribute 'to the conversation' of the day. Be it art, filmmaking, a transgendered fashion show, a journey in the countryside or even simply having your hair cut, of which the Italian section of this work depicts Jarman having his cropped to his definitive look of later years.
Originally commissioned by the BBC as part of their acclaimed Arena series, to be later released on video in the UK, the film subsequently became a highly sought after out-of-print item. Thankfully all that is in the past, as this work has now been restored to DVD glory thanks to the distribution arm of Artificial Eye, presenting it alongside Jarman's 35mm swan song Blue.
It is the perfect combination, given one reflects the thoughts and the other the images of a creative genius who died well before his time.