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Screen » Film

Clash Around the Campfire: The Future is Unwritten gives a glimpse of a punk icon

Cooler than you.There's no doubt Joe Strummer was a cool guy. I wouldn't have wanted to be in The Clash with him, but I would've

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Cooler than you.There's no doubt Joe Strummer was a cool guy. I wouldn't have wanted to be in The Clash with him, but I would've definitely enjoyed sitting around the campfire telling stories with him, which is exactly how this outstanding documentary, Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten, is woven together. I was shocked and saddened when I heard he died. I thought he was on the comeback trail but sadly, he succumbed quickly and without warning to a cognitive heart condition and was-poof!-gone.

Directed by Strummer's longtime pal and Clash cinematographer Julien Temple, Future delivers a doesn't-miss-a-beat assault of edits, archival gems, never-before-seen footage, British film clips, cartoon montages, and perhaps most impacting, footage of Strummer's friends reminiscing around a campfire. From the absolutely excellent opening scene with Strummer laying down the vocal track for The Clash's "White Riot" - we see him in headphones singing into a microphone unaccompanied, then cut to the band blaring at full blast - you know you are in for one hip ride.

The movie diagrams Joe's early years with his diplomat dad and generous Irish mom, his adolescent years as an art school hippie (yes that's right), his beginning bands (the Vultures and 101ers) and rolls nicely into a mini Clash documentary encasing their history in a very concise nutshell.

Strummer felt his audiences were his equals and friends and the film details the devastating toll fame brought, microscopically dissecting the disconnect he experienced. Strummer went into a dark period for roughly ten years, doing soundtracks and some acting, revealing fascinating and depressing insight into his personal demons. Still, he strove to find something new. The Clash/punk movement had evolved into socio-political messages and a litany of musical styles. Strummer needed to reinvent himself in order to find himself. Getting a wake-up call from a 17-year-old that'd never heard of The Clash brought his feet back to Earth, inspiring him to search numerous clubs in L.A., handpicking musicians to form the Mescalleros.

Venturing into things I never heard of: Strummer hosted the London Calling radio show, playing a vast array of eclectic songs, proving his ceaseless quest for knowledge and his need to make all styles of music accessible. Ironically, he seemed happiest when he fused punks and hippies together for Strummerville campfires.

If you are looking for the definitive Joe Strummer biography this is the real deal. He might have been an egomaniac, but he was one with heart and soul. He took his music seriously as well as his message. This film digs deep into the very essence of what pushed him onward...it was his creative mind never tiring, always searching for the next best thing for him and the ones he cared about, and apparently that was just about everyone on the planet. It's a shame no one will fill the void.

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