Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten
- Mark Robertson
- 21 May 2007
Joe Strummer was man of contradictions, some he could deal with, others he couldn’t. Director Julien Temple was a part of the London punk scene and experienced many of Joe’s magnificent contradictions first hand.
Temple has a patchy record on he documentary front, last year’s Glastonbury was a near disaster, an idea that failed to make the transition from pub notion to celluloid and his Sex Pistols history The Filth and the Fury was a hagiographic, if loveable shambles.
Luckily here he has his archivist hat on. He collects together a phenomenal cast list of faces to throw in their tuppenceworth: from Strummer’s immediate family to Johnny Depp, Bono and Jim Jarmusch to those there at the time like Keith Levene, Don Letts and Steve Jones. Only Paul Simonon is conspicuous by his absence. Archive interviews from Strummer himself are intercut with an amazing array of archive footage of every part of Strummer’s life, including the very first rehearsals of The Clash. All the interviewees are filmed round campfires - the kind of communal experience Joe was fascinated by - which works incredibly well to bring all those featured onto the same plane. They touch on Strummer’s journey from his incarnation as John Mellor the diplomat’s son to Woody the hippy and squatter to Strummer the punk revolutionary through to his latter days as Joe the creative, spiritual glue between those around him up to his untimely death aged 50. The film is a fascinating trove of unseen, unheard nuggets for fans but those who don’t know the man’s history might be struggling to follow the trajectory. This is a loving film made by a passionate filmmaker that doesn’t always claim to understand or even care about its subject’s life choices. Temple does manage to capture some of the ragged, free flowing energy that made so many of the moments of Strummer’s time on earth worth witnessing.