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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

The Dream Machine

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This is a 35-minute anthology film from 1986 with a very painterly, poetic (for want of a better term) quality of a kind I’ve not seen for some time in queer cinema. The reasons for this can be debated at greater length than I care to attempt, but it’s notable that a feature of the work of Derek Jarman—one of the featured directors—was an approach that was always happy to dispense with naturalism and the aping of familiar film and television narratives. In place of Jarman’s visionary approach we now have the “ordinary gay lives” of Weekend and Looking. This may satisfy those eager to see their own lives reflected on the screen but I’m usually expecting more from my cinema than another mirror held up to mundane reality. (And a very circumscribed reality, at that.)

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The theme of The Dream Machine is Bryon Gysin’s hallucination-inducing artwork of the same name. Brief clips by Tim Burke of Gysin sat with eyes closed in front of his flickering cylinder form the connective tissue between sections by directors Jarman, Michael Kostiff, Cerith Wyn Evans, and John Maybury. We can take these as either the dreams of those behind the camera or perhaps the visions seen by Gysin behind his eyelids. Needless to say there’s a fair amount of naked male flesh on offer, presented in a matter-of-fact manner or as the embodiments of some personal symbolism. The film can be seen here in not very flattering quality. Both Cerith Wyn Evans and John Maybury started out as assistants on Jarman’s films. Wyn Evans appears briefly in Caravaggio (1986) but is now better known as an artist, while Maybury went on to direct another excellent artist biopic, Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (1998).

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Jarman (all this maddening beauty)
Sebastiane by Derek Jarman
A Journey to Avebury by Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman’s music videos
Derek Jarman’s Neutron
Mister Jarman, Mister Moore and Doctor Dee
The Tempest illustrated
In the Shadow of the Sun by Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman at the Serpentine
The Angelic Conversation
The life and work of Derek Jarman

 


 

Posted in {art}, {film}, {gay}, {sculpture}.

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2 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by JC

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    I saw this at the BFI last night and it was even more disorienting than The Cut Ups. An exhilarating yet grating experience that went from quiet, meditative, beautiful to intense, hypnotic, shocking within half an hour. The final section (Maybury’s?) took me completely by surprise and you could sense the audience in the cinema tensing up. I’m not sure I’d want to repeat the experience but it was an interesting night…

  2. #2 posted by John

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    That’s a surprise, it was a coincidence my posting this at the same time.

    Yes, the final sequence is an abrupt shift of tone. There’s bits of Driller Killer in there as well as gay porn, both of which were illegal in the UK when the film was made; no wonder it wasn’t on TV.

 




 

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