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
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
Mon September 29
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