Joe Strummer was a punk icon, albeit an incongruous one; the son of a diplomat and public schoolboy who grew up to become the charismatic, fired-up, proletariat frontman of The Clash. Filmmaker Julien Temple has three Sex Pistols films under his belt so is no stranger to punk, but as a friend of Strummer, Temple had his camera trained on him since the early days, resulting in a staggering array of footage and a meticulously built portrait of the man and his work.
Whether you need to know every detail of Strummer's life is debatable but Temple's approach is passionate and energetic. Where footage is sparse for the early years, clips of the animated Animal Farm and Lindsay Anderson's If... appear, and animated versions of Strummer's drawings and cartoons are dotted throughout the film. There's mountains of Clash footage and archive material too; the visual aspect of the film never lags.
"INSPIRING AND CAUTIONARY"
For talking heads, Temple has assembled family, friends, colleagues and admirers, strangely without titles, which is fine for Johnny Depp but not so for Strummer's exes. Reminiscing round a campfire, the tone is affectionate, although speaking candidly is not ruled out. Strummer could be selfish, insensitive and manipulative, and those who bore the brunt of it appear here, like his early friends and bandmates who he callously ditched to pursue fame with The Clash. But the man was also very vulnerable, especially when The Clash disbanded. Inspiring and cautionary at the same time, Strummer's story is an absorbing one for Clash fans and also to those new to the man.
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten is released in UK cinemas on Friday 18th May 2007.