No or­di­nary Joe

JOE STRUM­MER: THE FU­TURE IS UN­WRIT­TEN Di­rected by Julien Tem­ple 15A cert, IFI/Movies@Dun­drum, Dublin, 123 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

POINT­ING out that Julien Tem­ple brings a punk sen­si­bil­ity to his study of the life and pre­ma­ture death of Joe Strum­mer, for­mer lead singer of The Clash, risks giv­ing the im­pres­sion that The Fu­ture Is Un­writ­ten has a chaotic, thrown-to­gether qual­ity to it. Well, the pic­ture cer­tainly does not suf­fer from an ex­cess of tidi­ness.

Al­ter­nat­ing shots of Strum­mer in ac­tion with en­comi­ums from var­i­ous friends and celebri­ties (Johnny Depp, Martin Scors­ese, all sur­viv­ing Clash mem­bers bar, strangely, Paul Si­monon), this busy en­ter­tain­ment, which shuns cap­tions and voiceover, could never be mis­taken for an episode of VH1’s Be­hind the Mu­sic. But it re­mains an ad­mirably con­trolled work, which, fol­low­ing re­cent films on The Sex Pis­tols and Glas­ton­bury, be­lat­edly con­firms Tem­ple as a doc­u­men­tar­ian of some tal­ent. Un­like last year’s Leonard Co­hen film, which cou­pled good mu­sic with medi­ocre film-mak­ing, The Fu­ture Is Un­writ­ten of­fers a sat­is­fy­ing dou­ble whammy.

Snip­pets of such dra­mas as Lind­say An­der­son’s If . . . and the BBC’s 1984 are smug­gled into the mon­tage to com­ple­ment and oc­ca­sion­ally sub­vert the story of the diplo­mat’s son who threw off his mid­dle-class bag­gage to be­come, first, a ded­i­cated squat­ter and, then, the front­man of the sec­ond most sig­nif­i­cant punk band.

Tem­ple, who first met Strum­mer in the mid-1970s, be­fore de­camp­ing to the Pis­tols’ court, un­earths some stun­ning footage of the Clash’s early days and al­lows the con­trib­u­tors – who, in ac­knowl­edge­ment of an en­thu­si­asm of Joe’s, are ar­ranged round camp­fires – am­ple space to ap­pend foot­notes, com­men­taries and cor­rec­tions.

The fi­nal stages of the pic­ture sag some­what as Tem­ple strug­gles to sell us Strum­mer’s so-so later work, but the singer re­mains en­er­getic, amus­ing, iras­ci­ble com­pany through­out.

Clash City Rock­ers ev­ery­where should re­joice.

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