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Monday, 29 November 1999 19:00
November 30 through December 6, 2007
Reviewed by Diane Carson
Everyone into punk music knows the legendary Joe Strummer, best known for his years after 1976 as Clash guitarist and lead singer. But revered as Strummer is, few filmgoers want to see a film about him that follows tired patterns when Strummer endorsed anything but convention.
Perfect, then, for the job of documenting Strummer's unusual life and celebrated music is director Julien Temple who has crafted numerous music videos and homages: Bowie, Van Halen, Scissor Sisters, Luther Vandross, and, now, Strummer. What Temple does exceptionally well in Joe Strummer, The Future Is Unwritten is to provide political and cultural contexts for each of the decades and the music interpreting, commenting on them. And Temple does this by knitting together illustrative newsreel footage, clips from relevant films, concert footage, songs from other artists, amusing animation of the band, and interviews, most of them recorded at a huge beach bonfire. It's never dull.

Temple follows a chronological organization to keep the many elements clear, and so begins with Joe's early life, born Joe Mellors, 1950, and his diplomat father stationed to Turkey with his patient mother. What follows are comments on Joe's thoroughly unpleasant education at British boarding school, his counterculture involvement including living in abandoned London buildings, his reactionary brother's suicide, work at itinerant jobs, and his evolution as a musician from calling himself Woody to various groups and, eventually, the Clash. Noted individuals testify to the Clash's appeal: John Cusack, Bono, Martin Scorsese, Steve Buscemi, Johnny Depp, Matt Dillon, et. al. More importantly, we hear from the band's Terry Chimes, Mick Jones, and Nicky Headon.

Temple doesn't sugar coat the difficult times working and living with Joe, and Joe has his say through clips from candid commentary and formal interviews. As appropriate, the ideas considered, embraced and expressed by Strummer in personal and professional life get their due as well. Joe Strummer, The Future Is Unwritten runs just over two hours but never feels padded given the complexity of the times and this singular musician who illuminate and defined them. At Landmark's Tivoli Theatre through December 6th only.

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