THE LAST OF ENGLAND: After a long day at work I came home and watched Derek Jarman's film, The Last of England. I found it on DVD at Tower Records (which is going out of business next week and everything in the store was 50 to 75 percent off) the other day and snapped it up. I hadn't seen the film in nearly 20 years and had forgotten how poetic, political and prescient it was and still is.

Clocking in at only 88 minutes, the film takes place in a post-apocalyptic England where survivors roam the rubble of London in a permanent twilight. A young gay junkie furiously grinds against a painting of another naked youth; a man who has lost his wife wanders aimlessly before being picked up by what appears to be the military; hordes of homeless men, women and children line the banks of the Thames as the documentary-style camera lingers on their faces while Marianne Faithfull's mournful version of The Skye Boat Song plays like a dirge.

The great Tilda Swinton gets top billing, but she only shows up in the last 20 minutes in the film's most memorable sequence. She marries a man in the rubble of building, attended by drag queens sporting lavish Edwardian costumes. Rather than dialogue, Jarman dubs in Princess Diana marrying Charles and the over-the-top coverage of the wedding provided by the BBC. Then we see Swinton on the riverbank desperately trying to rip off the wedding gown, but it won't come off. She cuts at it with scissors, but she fabric is indestructible. At the end of the sequence she's twirling madly while Diamanda Galas screeches Deliver Me. The metaphor here is unmistakable in the age of Thatcherism....which was full of political marriages of convenience, war, racism, poverty, AIDS and homophobia.

Fast-forward to what's happening today -- December 14, 2006. We have a president (officially The.Worst.President.Ever) who is ignoring the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group report which tells the administration to find a new strategy or get the fuck out. Dubya said thanks, but no thanks to the recommendations and went back to his old "we can't cut and run", blah, blah, blah. Let's make this clear: Iraq is NOT winnable. This is a Vietnam for the 21st Century and the only sensible thing to do is get out before more American soldiers die, not to mention the thousands of deaths each month of Iraqi citizens caught in the crossfire of the insurgency. How is that a victory for the people? Iraq is on the brink of civil war and our presence there only fans the flames. Dubya and his minions refuse to acknowledge these facts, although the rest of the world has. Today, the Army's top ranking general, Peter G. Schoomaker, said troops are stretched so thin in Iraq and Afghanistan that it's near the breaking point. This whole administration is living in a dream world.

The country is also waiting to find out what happens to South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson, who suffered a brain hemorrhage yesterday. If the Democrat dies and has to be replaced, the appointment would come from South Dakota's GOP governor, who more than likely would send a Republican to Washington. That would mean a 50/50 split in the senate with Dickhead Cheney having the tie-breaking vote. This gives the senate back to the conservatives. Noooooo! The Dems just can't seem to catch a break. I hope Johnson pulls through, because he seems like a level-headed nice guy, but we can't afford to step backwards at this critical juncture.

Also today, nearly 10 years later, the former head of Scotland Yard released an exhaustive 832-page report on the death of Princess Diana. While I firmly believe Marilyn Monroe was murdered and there was more than one gunman in Dallas for Kennedy's assassination, the conspiracy theories surrounding Diana never rang true with me. There were accusations -- many by Dodi Fayed's grief-crazed father -- that his son and Diana were murdered by Britain's secret service on orders from the royal family because she was pregnant and engaged to Dodi. The report concludes that driver Henri Paul was drunk and speeding to elude paparazzi when he crashed the Mercedes in Paris. Diana wasn't wearing a seat belt and suffered massive internal injuries. I believe that. So many want to believe there's a grand plot surrounding Diana's death because dying in a common car crash is not a fitting end for a princess. It brings into sharp focus that we are all mortal.

Diana was seen as an antidote to Thatcherism in the 80s. In a time of conservative oppression, she went to hospitals and...gasp...shook hands with AIDS patients when both the UK and America refused acknowledge the disease because of its connection to homosexuality. Diana was a free spirit who refused to conform to tradition and shook off the oppressive mores of a country that fought against modernism.

After watching The Last of England, I could not fail to see the parallels in what's happening today and how events continue to echo.


Anonymous said…
Tilda and Diana went to school together. I read that online today when i was looking up to see what else she had done. I forgot about Orlando, which rocks.
Anonymous said…
Damn it...forgot the siggy.

Collin said…
"Orlando" is a brilliant film.

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