Punk is the most mysterious of all musical sub-genres, primarily because any rejection of mainstream society must face an existential dilemma when it is embraced by the mainstream. The irony of punk's founding was that many of the core themes of both the music and the culture that sprung up around it were no different than the themes upon which rock 'n' roll was originally based. London Calling, the best punk record ever made, doesn't sound so far from early Stones or many of the harder Lennon songs in the Beatles catalog. Yet because the movement prided itself on sprouting from working-class England and planted its flag in the decidedly anti-commercialism camp, the move into the conventional narrative of rock was an extremely uncomfortable one. This was further complicated by The Sex Pistols, an overrated band with a handful of good songs that nevertheless managed to become the quintessential punk band - despite the fact that they were in many ways an inauthentic attempt (if self-consciously and ironically so) to sell-out the movement. Punk's end goal for bands like this was to be able to say "fuck you" to the establishment while cashing the checks anyway.
All of this has bearing on Jubilee, a dull and muddled cult film that nevertheless takes an intelligent stab at quantifying the movement within the context of contemporary Britain. I never found myself grabbing hold of any of the various abstract and only tangentially connected moments in the film. The message may have been lost on me - if the film has a message at all beyond being against messages. The premise is clever enough: Elizabeth I asks an alchemist in her court to show her the future, and what is revealed is a dystopian Britain ruled by girl gangs and cackling producers. This is just a vague outline, however, for the film to wander around in, alternating between surreal fantasies and throwaway philosophical confrontations. Finally, the movie just becomes a drag.
There are two main approaches to a film attempting to capture the energy of a musical movement (or moment). The first is the document approach - depicting what being a part of the scene was like and attempting to bring to the music a better understanding of its context. Sometimes this is done on purpose (see Monterey Pop) and sometimes it just happens because of the material the filmmaker had available to them (see Border Radio). But either way these films become incredibly valuable to music fans, particularly those who are partial to the specific movement being covered. The second way is to attempt to evoke the movement's philosophy through either thematic or technical devices (or both). This is a much more perilous path - not only because music and film are such different mediums, but because films are relatively exorbitantly expensive to make. Even when you are dealing with the most lo-fi genre of all, recreating a philosophy is going to run you big numbers.
That's not to imply that Jubilee fails because it has a low budget. I just mean to emphasize the difficulty of transferring a feeling from music to film, and why virtually all of the best music films fall into the former "document" camp. Jubilee is an interesting attempt to catch the lightning of punk in England in the late 70s, it just can't keep up.