Sunday, June 1, 2008

Independent Provocateurs

DEREK
(Isaac Julien, 2008, UK, 76 mins.)
(***)

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It feels like the correct time to be reminded of an ancient tradition that has always
served civilization well, that of the independent, truth-telling poet provocateur.

-- Tilda Swinton to The New York Times

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Produced by friend and muse Tilda Swinton, Derek offers an impressionistic
portrait of the late British iconoclast (Caravaggio, Jubilee). Seventy-six minutes
seems short, but Julien (Looking for Langston, Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask) packs a lot of material into that time, and the pace never feels rushed.

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Sean Bean in Caravaggio (1986)
A revealing, self-deprecating 1990 interview with Jarman provides most of the narrative (he died from AIDS complications four years later). Comments from
other actors and collaborators, like Ken Russell, for whom Jarman designed sets
in his early days, would've been nice, but the film presents Julien and Swinton's perspective (she wrote her commentary). Outside voices would surely provide
a fuller picture, but at the expense of the intimate mood they establish.
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Derek plays the Harvard Exit on 6/5 at 7pm and 6/7 at 4:30pm. Click here for Gil-
lian's review. Zeitgeist releases a box set, Glitterbox - Derek Jarman X 4, on 6/24.
BAGHEAD (***)
(Mark & Jay Duplass, 2008, US, 84 mins.)
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In their indie sensation The Puffy Chair, Mark and Jay Duplass used the re-
trieval of a piece of furniture to explore the relationship between a close-knit
trio. Their studio follow-up represents something alternately fresh and familiar.
For four Los Angeles extras, a trip to the woods to collaborate on a screenplay be-
comes a chance to organize their personal and professional lives until the youngest (Greta Gerwig, Hannah Takes the Stairs) spots a man with a bag on his head skulking in the shadows. The concept may be slight and the execution rudimentary, but the makers of Baghead have devised a surprisingly poignant horror-comedy hybrid.
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Baghead plays the Egyptian on 6/8 at 6:30pm and 6/9 at 4:30pm.
Directors in attendance. It opens at Seattle's Varsity on 8/8.
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Images from Yellow Melodies, Diva TV, and indieWIRE
(Baghead still from the Sundance Film Festival).

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