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The Future Is Unwritten (Music from the Film)

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Album Review

When Julien Temple directs a rockumentary, you know it isn't going to be the usual straightforward assemblage of talking heads with archival footage. So it is with his acclaimed 2007 Joe Strummer documentary The Future Is Unwritten, even though it does actually draw upon many interviews and film clips dating back to Strummer's childhood. If you want to learn the basic outline of Strummer's (or the Clash's) career, this might not be the best place, since Temple, as expected, sprinkles the interviews/footage with plenty of arty graphics, edits, and effects — particularly bonfires, around which many of the interviews take place — to keep the visual interest afloat. Too, none of the interviewees are identified by captions, and even the major Strummer/Clash fan might be uncertain or puzzled as to the role some of them played in Joe's life (though if you don't recognize major figures like Mick Jones, who's interviewed extensively, you might have come to the wrong place altogether). If you're willing to go with the flow and take what Temple presents instead of fretting over grasping the entire context, however, there's a wealth of insight into Strummer's complicated character, as well as much exciting footage of Clash/Mescaleros performances and actual Strummer interviews. Though Clash bassist Paul Simonon and Clash manager Bernie Rhodes are notable absentees, an astonishing number of Strummer's friends and colleagues offer their comments, including Jones, Clash drummer Topper Headon, and other musicians with whom Joe worked; old buddies dating back to his childhood and college days; musicians Strummer influenced and inspired, from Bono and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones; and director/actor chums like Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch, and Matt Dillon. While Strummer's flaws aren't skipped over — including some breaks with his past that some of those close to him were hurt by — the overall tone focuses on his more artistic and humane qualities, with some surprises like the story of a brother who committed suicide when Joe was a teenager, and pictures of the young Strummer with long hair. [As a bonus feature, the 2008 DVD edition of the film adds audio commentary from Temple and an additional 100 minutes of interview footage with many of the subjects included in the main feature. That additional interview footage is more for serious fans than the general viewer, but does add some viewpoints and stories that will be of interest to intense Strummer admirers. Temple's commentary track is interesting not just for additional perspective upon and anecdotes of Strummer's life, but for background information as to how the film was constructed and how some of the rare source footage was found.]

Biography

Born: 21 August 1952 in Ankara, Turkey

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

As frontman and main songwriter of the Clash, Joe Strummer created some of the fieriest, most vital punk rock — and, indeed, rock & roll — of all time. Strummer expanded punk's musical palette with his fondness for reggae and early rock & roll, and his signature bellow lent an impassioned urgency to the political sloganeering that filled some of his best songs. After the Clash disbanded in 1986, Strummer sporadically pursued film acting and released the occasional solo album,...
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