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John Waters on Derek Jarman's Blue

In celebration of his dedicated retrospective at the BFI, we share the iconic film director's emotive account of seeing radical movie Blue, for the very first time

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John Waters for AnOther Magazine A/W15Photography by Mark Peckmezian

“I saw Blue in its opening week in New York, in 1993. There was a big sign outside the movie theatre that read, ‘Warning: this film is only the colour blue’. Talk about a marketing nightmare! People had flipped out and wanted their money back. Blue is as beautiful as a minimalist art piece. It’s hypnotising. You feel like you’re tripping after a while. Derek Jarman was going blind as he made it, and Blue was a beautiful, radical way to deal with dying from AIDS. Half of my friends died of AIDS in the 80s so it’s a tearjerker – but it’s not self-pitying. It’s smart, angry and very, very sad. Minimalist cinema is a small genre, but this would be the Rosebud of minimalist cinema. It’s extreme, and it completely defied the movie business. I felt Derek was a kindred spirit. We made very different movies, but I saw all of his. Tilda Swinton was his Divine, right?”

"Blue is as beautiful as a minimalist art piece. It’s hypnotising. You feel like you’re tripping after a while" – John Waters 

For more than five decades, John Waters has distilled all the filth, perversion and crassness America has to offer into exuberantly warped, bad-taste cinema. The “Pope of Trash”, as William Burroughs dubbed him, is celebrated this autumn with a BFI retrospective stretching from his first Super 8 short, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, to this year’s Kiddie Flamingos – a child-friendly version of his cult classic, Pink Flamingos. A connoisseur of underground ephemera, the director has also curated a sidebar of British films, including Freddie Francis’ Trog (Joan Crawford meets caveman), Joseph Losey’s Boom! (Elizabeth Taylor meets bizarre headgear) and Derek Jarman’s heartbreakingly sublime Blue

This article appears in the A/W15 edition of AnOther MagazineThe Complete Films of John Waters is at the BFI throughout September and October 2015.

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