JOE STRUMMER: THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN (Julien Temple) Rating: NNN
This fast-paced biopic of punk rock’s favourite poet is beautifully made but fails to get to the heart of Joe Strummer’s troubled character.
The son of a diplomat, Strummer rebelled in his teens and enjoyed a few art school band outings before ruling the British punk scene as frontman of the Clash from 1976 to 1986. The release of London Calling propelled the band to international stardom, and Strummer wrestled thereafter with the fame he’d wanted, at the cost of being part of the establishment he criticized.
A music scene documentarian of 40 years, master craftsman Julien Temple (The Great Rock ’N’ Roll Swindle) interviews an array of stars including Bono and Johnny Depp. But he casts his net too wide, staying on the surface of Strummer’s life instead of telling a richer, more personal story.
We don’t meet Strummer’s children, which raises the unanswered question, in a pure tribute film, of why they chose not to appear. Nor do we learn how his brother Dave’s boyhood suicide affected his life.
Former Clash bandmates Mick Jones and Topper Headon could offer more insight into Strummer’s turbulent decade with the Clash. His violent outburst against a German fan in 1980, which haunted him for years, isn’t mentioned. And Strummer’s rock ’n’ roll rebirth with the Mescaleros, the band with whom he found his voice post-Clash and played until his death, deserves more screen time.
Temple’s great nostalgic ride is worth taking. But how Stummer’s life shaped the social justice anthems he penned is a story that remains untold. (Royal, from February 1)