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TV Reviews : 'Blue': No Images, but Many Messages

July 15, 1994|RAY LOYND

The final, mesmerizing work by the recently deceased British filmmaker Derek Jarman is much more a literary and auditory achievement than a visual experience.

In fact, the broadcast premiere of "Derek Jarman's Blue," part of KCET's "Independent Eye" experimental film and video series, is totally devoid of images. Instead of pictures, the entire 75-minute film is an unaltering, monochromatic blue screen accompanied by voices, sounds and music.

Say what? Rather remarkably, however, Jarman (acclaimed for such films as "Caravaggio" and "The Last of England") carries the viewer on a harrowing, personal journey of a man dying from AIDS and going blind. The autobiographical odyssey is a phantasmagoria, richly embellished by composer Simon Fisher Turner's score.

Coursing through Jarman's half dream, half nightmare is the pervasive "blue." Like the screen, blue becomes the texture and mirror of the filmmaker's loss of sight.

Of course, the work explodes our very idea of what film is. (Not coincidentally, the production will be simulcast in stereo on KPFK-FM.) But, while it's essentially a listening experience of a human body falling apart, a searing, raw, lyrical mediation into death, it's also undeniable that the deep blue screen creates a hallucinatory effect.

Aural imagery dances madly and not so madly: "My life runs like sparks through the stubble . . . the blue heat haze of my heart . . . the virus rages fierce . . . evil slime in the yellow bile . . . thinking blind, becoming blind . . . seeking the fabulous blue of bliss."

And, finally, in Jarman's last words, he goes to rest: "I place the delphinium--blue--upon your grave."

Crucially, none of this is maudlin or gloomy. Four different voices enfold you (John Quentin, Nigel Terry, Derek Jarman and Tilda Swinton). But keep your eye on the screen. Its blueness becomes your distant planet.

* "Derek Jarman's Blue" airs at 11 tonight on KCET-TV Channel 28 and will be simulcast by KPFK-FM (90.7).

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