Olympus Jarman

Derek Jarman, in his book Dancing Ledge, is quoted as saying: “Oh how Shakespeare would have loved cinema!”
I rather think DJ would be less sure of this if he had been to see ‘Olympus has Fallen’, the two-hour festival of mayhem and carnage starring Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman. This movie – a lazy, deafening rehash of Die Hard – sees North Korean terrorists storm the White House where they kidnap the President and set about triggering the self-destruct program of all the US nuclear weapons. Subtle it ain’t.
Jarman’s final testament, of course, is his film ‘Blue’, a sort of radio-play broadcast over a permanent bright blue screen. There are numerous cultural echoes here; blue movies, depression, the precious pigment used by renaissance painters to depict the Virgin’s robes, the flat blue canvases of Yves Klein. If there are no visual distractions, then viewers are forced to concentrate on the words, the grim, vulgar confessional that Jarman recites as he bids farewell to life.
‘Olympus has Fallen’ ends, naturally, with the bad guys being gruesomely slaughtered, and the President appearing on TV to reassure Our Great People that Freedom and Justice have prevailed. My head reeled under the burden of this triumphalism, and I staggered out into the early evening in search of refreshment.
Manchester had not been attacked by hordes of psychotic Asian terrorists, but as I made my way to the pub I noticed that several of the buildings around me had fallen into disuse. Instead of a rapid onslaught of destruction, a slow process of decay and neglect had crushed the life out of these nightclubs and shops. A few years ago these buildings had provided employment and amusement for hundreds of people, but now they were empty, boarded up, making no contribution to the life of the city around them. Likewise, the streets were not strewn with bloody corpses, but there must have been many talented intelligent people trapped in menial jobs…wasted potential.
But anyway, back to the cinema, where I was waiting to see ‘Olympus has Fallen’. Before the main show we were treated to trailers for forthcoming attractions, one of which turned out to be ‘White House Down’ – a brash, high-octane thriller about a terrorist siege at the White House featuring lots of explosions and gunfights. Hollywood has a history of producing pairs of competing movies together (Antz and A Bug’s Life, Deep Impact and Armageddon, Volcano and Dante’s Peak, The Descent and The Cave) but this marketing ploy was perverse; why tease customers with the suggestion that there may be a better version of a product they have just purchased?
Journal Entry, 22 May ’13:
Last year, when Dame Freda Mercury would have been 65, the Google logo celebrated the occasion with a playful animated action sequence. Today is the bicentenary of Richard Wagner, and Google – probably fearful of the political fallout that would follow any commemoration – has chosen to ignore the event.


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