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Monday, February 21, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Outspoken Gay Film Director Derek Jarman Battled Aids

AP

LONDON - Derek Jarman, the iconoclastic British filmmaker whose homosexuality frankly influenced his work, died here yesterday after a long battle against AIDS. He was 52.

Although prolific as an author and painter, Mr. Jarman was best known as the director of films that helped energize independent low-budget British cinema in the 1970s and '80s.

He was no less renowned for his outspokenness, arguing at one point that Sir Ian McKellen - an actor and gay activist - had compromised himself by accepting a knighthood from a Conservative government responsible for anti-gay legislation.

Jarman had made gay life and issues central to his career.

"I am simply trying to demystify areas of life which are very ordinary, such as HIV infection or my sexuality," he told the Sunday Telegraph in 1991.

His most recent film project is "Blue," a spoken account of Mr. Jarman's personal experience of AIDS filmed as a vast expanse of delphinium blue.

He began his career designing sets and costumes for ballet and opera , moving on to films as set designer on Ken Russell's "The Devils" (1971) and "Savage Messiah" (1972).

He made his directing debut with "Sebastiane" (1975), about the martyred saint in the time of the Emperor Diocletian, which featured unbridled homosexuality and Latin dialogue. "Jubilee" (1977) portrayed an anarchic England in which Elizabeth I is confronted by 20th century punk culture and the end of royalism.

Other films include "The Tempest" (1980), "Caravaggio" (1986),"The Last of England" (1987), "Edward II" (1991), and "War Requiem" (1989), a rigorous adaptation of Benjamin Britten's 1962 oratorio inspired by the poetry of Wilfrid Owen.

Mr. Jarman exhibited often as a painter at London galleries. He wrote "Dancing Ledge" and "The Last of England," as well as two memoirs.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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