With its day-glo characters and derelict locations, the film isn't out to create a realistic, metropolitan environment -- often, the actors just recite history or philosophy for the camera and serve as conduits for Jarman's thoughts. What passes for "plot" is strictly secondary, as various play-like vignettes are spliced together in collage. The motley cast includes the adolescent Toyah Willcox (relentlessly obnoxious and barely recognizable), the pre-fame Adam Ant, Little Nell (yes, from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"), Ian Charleson (half the film passed before I realized he starred in "Chariots of Fire" just a few years later) and Jenny Runacre (the group's aloof, glamorous matriarch). Willcox, Wayne County, Adam & the Ants (minus their later New Romantic frills) and Siouxsie & the Banshees are among the onscreen musical contributors, while Brian Eno adds ambient score. The Slits also make a quick cameo. Yet the centerpiece tune comes from a novice: the one-named Jordan (known here as "Amyl Nitrate"), who struts through sort of an operatic, reggae version of "Rule Brittania."
The abusive Willcox has the juiciest part, but the most coherent plot thread is the stardom quest of a handsome ingenue (Ant) and his subsequent exploitation by a leering media impresario (the ridiculously overacting "Orlando"). Elsewhere, the sociopathic Nell, Willcox and Runacre collaborate on a few thrill killings, while the depraved proceedings are coolly observed by a time-traveling Queen Elizabeth I (Runacre again), her court astrologer (Richard O'Brien, also from "Rocky Horror") and the spooky, dark-eyed angel they have summoned as a guide. This trio functions as a narrative frame and one suspects that, given a choice, Jarman would rather live in their past era of magic and elegant costumes.
Many British youths disliked "Jubilee" (punk-fashion icon Vivienne Westwood even ran off a notorious T-shirt decorated with a letter of protest) and it's easy to see why true rockers would prefer a grittier, grubbier work like, say, "Rude Boy." But "Jubilee" remains an intriguing curio that underground-music fans shouldn't miss.
[font=Century Gothic]Written and directed by Derek Jarman, "Jubilee" is an oddly beguiling and erotic movie that is purposefully ambivalent about the future, especially the effects of an increasingly irrelevant monarchy. Can it be that a future imagined cannot be any worse than the real one of 1978 with AIDS and Margaret Thatcher?[/font]
Great music in it, and a score by Brian Eno.
On the surface it seems like a bunch of rag-tag individuals fucking about, but there's alot of comment and satire in it. Even toward the sub-culture it's glorifying.
Where else will you see a gritty future, inhabited with punks, the clergy owning everything and all this being discovered by Queen Elizabeth 1.
Intriguing without being compelling, Jubilee showcases derelict England and punk culture. It's best viewed as a sequence of vignettes, linked by recurring characters. Attempting to find a typical plot arc will yield disappointment.
It's a film that holds the viewer at arm's length, yet still manages to reveal a variety of interesting characters. The scenarios aren't too interesting by themselves, but become relatively engaging by the way characters interact.
It's still a film you have to work to like, but some excellent musical showcases do a good job of helping to smooth the ride.