In this new restoration of the iconic New Queer Cinema classic, cinematic provocateur Derek Jarman (Sebastian, Jubilee) offers a visually extravagant, sexually provocative postmodern take on Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan drama, The Troublesome Reign of Edward II.
“Extravagant visual elegance and sexual politics form a volatile mix in this historical drama that has a strong contemporary resonance … Tilda Swinton turns in a most memorable performance.”– Stephen Holden, New York Times
Pleasure-seeking 14th-century monarch King Edward II (Steven Waddington, The Imitation Game) sets the stage for a palace revolt by openly rejecting his wife, Isabella (Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton in a ferocious performance), and taking as a lover the deviously ambitious street urchin Piers Gaveston (Andrew Tiernan, The Pianist), who uses his favor in Edward’s bed to wield political influence. The pair’s decadent and outrageous lifestyle shocks conservative sensibilities and drives the spurned, sexually-repressed Isabella to extremes, with the ensuing turmoil eventually sending the duo from the throne to the torture dungeons. In Jarman’s bold re-imagining of the classic Marlowe play, the story of Edward II becomes a biting commentary on homophobia in contemporary England, filled with sex, sadomasochism and a hysterically pitched moral fury. Staged in a stylistically opulent, imaginary realm outside of time (characters dance to Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” blasting on their Walkman headphones, Swinton swans through palace corridors decked out in modern haute couture, and singer Annie Lennox appears to wistfully croon Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”), Edward II is a daringly original vision and a landmark of gay cinema. (Dir. by Derek Jarman, 1991, UK, 87 mins., Rated R)