Watch Derek Jarman’s Daring 12-Minute Promo Film for Marianne Faithfull’s 1979 Comeback Album Broken English (NSFW)

Note: There are a few not-safe-for-work scenes in the film.

The world of music video was in its infan­cy in the late 1970s. MTV had yet to exist, and pro­mo­tion­al films for sin­gles were seen as use­ful for the times when a show could­n’t book a band to play live, or the band just didn’t play live any more. Into this world fell many a com­mer­cial direc­tor, used to the pro­mo­tion side of the pro­mo film busi­ness. But there were also direc­tors like Derek Jar­man, the punk­est of UK direc­tors at that time. This new for­mat paid the bills in between fea­tures, and let him exper­i­ment.

Though he would go on to work with the Pet Shop Boys and The Smiths, Jarman’s first pro­mo video is above, for three songs from Mar­i­anne Faithfull’s mas­ter­piece of a new wave album, Bro­ken Eng­lish (1979).

Faith­full had been out of the pub­lic eye for years, hav­ing spent a lot of the ’70 try­ing to kick her drug habit. The anger and cyn­i­cism of this album, her cracked but com­mand­ing voice, and the elec­tron­ic sounds were such that many for­get she released two oth­er “come­back albums” before this one. On Bro­ken Eng­lish she force­ful­ly rewrites her own his­to­ry as an artist, not con­tent to be seen as a drug casu­al­ty or Mick Jagger’s ex-girl­friend.

Jar­man was known at the time as the con­tro­ver­sial film­mak­er of both the homo­erot­ic Sebas­tiane and the anti-Roy­al Jubilee, which more than any film at the time encap­su­lat­ed the UK punk scene. It’s both bru­tal and roman­tic and charm­ing­ly D.I.Y.

The Bro­ken Eng­lish pro­mo film fea­tures three songs, brack­et­ed by black and white footage of Faith­full wan­der­ing around Lon­don and play­ing Space Invaders in a local arcade. The first, “Witch’s Song,” is the clos­est to Jarman’s short films dur­ing that peri­od: lan­guid, ambigu­ous­ly gen­dered young peo­ple, apoc­a­lyp­tic dock­side ruins, reflect­ed mir­rors, occultism and debauch­ery. The sec­ond, “The Bal­lad of Lucy Jor­dan,” fea­tures scenes of domes­tic­i­ty dou­ble exposed and/or pro­ject­ed over footage of Faith­full. The final one, for the title track, is a short col­lage of 20th cen­tu­ry fas­cism and car­nage, fea­tur­ing Hitler, Mus­soli­ni, Oswald Mosley, British strikes, and self-immo­lat­ed monks.

The two artists got along so well that she record­ed the theme song for his film The Last of Eng­land, fea­tur­ing a very young Til­da Swin­ton.

Both Jar­man and Faith­full went on to suc­cess­ful­ly rein­vent them­selves, but for the 21st cen­tu­ry view­er, they are also both worth redis­cov­er­ing.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Very Young Mar­i­anne Faith­full Sings Her First Hit, ‘As Tears Go By’ (1965)

Watch David Bowie & Mar­i­anne Faith­full Rehearse and Sing Son­ny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” (1973)

Jean-Luc Godard Shoots Mar­i­anne Faith­full Singing “As Tears Go By” (1966)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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