Less Than Blue

Derek Jarman's Blue may be that weird and wonderful filmmaker's weirdest and most wonderful film. Striking imagery informs all of his movies, from Sebastiane right through the queer classic Edward II, but Blue is literally about 80 minutes of nothing but a blue screen, with the bells and whispers of Brian Eno's haunting score caressing words spoken by Nigel Terry and Tilda Swinton. The script, as nonlinear as it is powerful, consists of Jarman's diaries and asides as blindness overtakes this most visual of artists. He died of an AIDS-related illness shortly after completing Blue in 1993.

Along comes Octavio Campos to pay a kind of tribute by projecting Jarman's movie onto his live dance performance. Sad to say, Blue/Live fails. The choreography is thin and eclectic, only Campos in various stages of undress cavorting as a sort of Energizer disco bunny, with jazz dancing, air guitar, and lots of obvious show-and-tell pantomime dumbing down Jarman's tragic poetry. (A mordant detail in the script about an AIDS-related eye infection resembling a pizza inevitably has Campos with a Domino's box offering pizza to the audience.)

It is all truly self-indulgent, and not in a nice way. There is no reason to doubt Campos's sincerity in being inspired by Jarman's harrowing film, but his homage has something grotesquely parasitic about it: Blue/Live adds nothing to Blue, cannot exist apart from it, and diminishes its devastating impact. The best part of last week's world premiere at the Miami Beach Cinematheque came when the audience could ignore Campos's bouncing on the blue bed and allow the film's blue light to illuminate the soundtrack. Jarman's Blue is too much, but it is also beautiful. Campos's Blue/Live is not enough.

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