Film: Jubilee

jubileeHulu has a metric fuckton of bizarre Criterion movies available for streaming, and leave it to me to start with one of the weirdest: Jubilee (1978), a stream-of-conscious punk rock dystopia. This plotless melange of guerilla filmmaking has an incongruous Shakespearean frame: Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre), with the assistance of an occultist, conjures a spirit guide who transports her forward in time to a dark future that looks an awful lot like 1970s London. There, she witnesses the anarchic behavior of her nation’s future, through the antics of a chaotic gang of artists, arsonists, layabouts, and musicians who wallow in a dying culture of media saturation and societal decay.

Nothing says “anything goes” like seventies cult cinema involving the British punk rock scene. Jubilee is random, uneven, paceless, and full of transgressive behavior and nihilistic political theory. It’s also got raw punk music from musicians like Adam Ant, Toyah Wilcox, and Sioxsie and the Banshees, among others. (Ant and Wilcox have substantial roles in the film.) While vast stretches of its running time are dull and amateurish, it does have a surprising cumulative effect as its mumbly blend of political commentary, grimy visuals, eccentric performances, and half-baked SF tropes spin inexorably into tragicomic nightmare. A broad viewership won’t respond to this relic, but it does earn its cult notoreity and I got a kick out of its grungy, experimental camp.

Scroll to Top