Marching to His Own Strummer

| 11/9/2007 2:58:51 PM

“Punk rock means exemplary manners to your fellow human being,” Joe Strummer tells an interviewer in Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, and although this new documentary film hints that the Clash singer-songwriter didn’t always live up to his own credo, he aspired to do so, and usually succeeded. Rock and roll filmmaker Julien Temple intersperses archival footage with fresh fireside interviews of Strummer’s bandmates, lovers, friends, and admirers. The film doesn’t dig too deeply beyond what’s already known—Strummer was bighearted though moody and impulsive—but paints a vivid portrait of his rise from the squalid London squatter scene to punk royalty and then, after the band’s breakup, his “wilderness years” and eventual reemergence with a new band, the Mescaleros. Tellingly, the best moments come when Strummer himself is seen or heard, his presence still crackling with an urgent, earnest energy. —Keith Goetzman

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