Four Movies that Carry Extra Meaning for Being the Last Movies from Their Directors

I’ll explain all of this in the first entry.

Blue by Derek Jarman (1993)

Derek Jarman was a cult figure. Maybe he was right on the cusp of being actually famous, but he never quite got there. His best known movie, Caravaggio, has about 7000 votes on IMDb, so hardly a mainstream director. He was also a gay rights activist and gay man himself. His movies come up at least twice, but probably even more often (I couldn’t find a list of those movies) in SCALA!!!, a movie about a cult cinema in London, because he was one of the people, whose movies were shown there regularly.

This is the motivation of thinking about this subject. Jarman knew he was dying of AIDS. He was basically completely blind and could only see blue, so he made this film, where the only visual is a specific hue of blue, so it’s more of a radioplay. To make it even more personal, he does much of the narration himself and *it’s about his experiences of dying slowly with many of his community dying with him. There’s three other narrators as well and they are all his longtime collaborators, making this even more meaningful.

Jarman had the “benefit” of knowing he was about to die and did die later that year. So, there’s a very different motivation behind all of this. So, are there other, similarly meaningful endings to careers. Honestly, I couldn’t find any quite on this level, but I did find interesting ones.

F for Fake by Orson Welles (1973)

Orson Welles started strong. His first movie won Sight & Sound Critics’ Poll five times before losing to Vertigo in 2012. (It’s known as his first movie, but it wasn’t really.) However, that very same movie also destroyed his career in many ways. He angered the wrong people and was thus ostracized from Hollywood, so the rest of his career was mostly scrambling for funding and fighting with producers. Fittingly, he even made a version of Don Quijote he never finished (which was finished by other after his death), although that movie he wasn’t even planning on finishing, but would rather just do that for fun, unlike his many other failed projects.

So, after being totally disillusioned with the business, he came up with this fitting end to his career, F for Fake. I’m going to count this as his last movie, although you can argue differently and I can’t really dismiss those opinions.

So, this is a sort of a documentary about forgeries and Welles fully embraces this. In the beginning, he states that everything he is going to tell us during the next hour is going to be completely true. Of course, the movie is 89 minutes, so… Did you catch when the hour was over? Did you remember that different formats will have slightly different lengths? He also states that why should anyone believe him about not lying.

Voskhozhdenie or The Ascent by Larisa Shepitko (1977)

At the time of her death in 1979, she was just 41. She died in a car crash. Since she worked in Soviet Union, she is not that widely known, although based on the same metric I used with Jarman (votes on IMDb), she is better known than him, but not that much.

This was her sixth movie. She had to fight to have it be released as it had been banned, because of fears that the movie wouldn’t show the Red Army in good light. Her husband finally managed to show it to a high-ranking army officer, who saw that the film was not only great, but as a former partisan himself, he found it very plausible and true account of partisans during the World War II as well, so suddenly Shepitko rose from a pariah to a rising star. There’s even a story that was asked to consult on Apocalypse Now by Coppola, who arranged a personal screening for her.

… and then it was just all over.

Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma or Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1975)

Pasolini was leading figure in European cinema throughout his career. He also wrote a lot of movies as well as books, essays and so forth. He was an active political figure, who was not afraid to be openly communist, gay and atheist in a time and place where none of these where very welcome. (He did seem to clash with the parties that called themselves communist and seemed to explore his atheism quite a bit, but there’s no question about him being gay.)

He had made a bunch of movies that always defied the commonly held believes regarding morals in Italy. His previous three films, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights, had been a trilogy based on various classical literature (as you probably figured out). It became known as the Trilogy of Life and the common reading of these films was that he had become softer and was now a directing basically softcore porn (the movies do have a lot of nudity). So, he overcorrected and made this movie about the leaders of Salo (a German puppet nation in the Northen Italy centered in the city of Salo) performing a complicated ritual with the goal of enforcing their rule. This includes marrying each others daughters as well as kidnapping a bunch of local youths to perform various degrading tasks as well as being subjected to sexual assaults of various kinds. This was planned to be the first of Trilogy of Death.

… but instead he was murdered. The details aren’t clear. It’s quite obvious that the 17 year old, who was convicted of this, didn’t do it, but that isn’t helpful. Apparently, there were at least two killers, who called him a communist as they brutally attacked him.

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