Saturday, December 8, 2007

Movie Review: The Future is Unwritten

Over Thanksgiving, we got to see "The Future is Unwritten," a Julian Temple biopic about one of my personal heros, Joe Strummer. We saw it at the IFC theatre in..Chelsea??..NYC.
The setup of the film was not at all tiresome, and documented a great deal of the transition between the dying (thank god) London hippie culture of the early 1970s, and the uprising of the activist (later, "punk") culture of the late 1970s/early 1980s. It was pretty educational. A lot of the old video and audio was not that amazing, but maybe that's because I'd seen it on 900 other documentaries about british punk in general, and The Clash in particular.


On the other hand, recent interviews with old Clash band members (especially Topper) were really invigorating and informative, and really brought a lot to the film. I also enjoyed some of the (circa 1999 to 2002) Joe Strummer interview audio, it was neat to hear his perspective.


The film has a corporate soundtrack (Julian Temple, after all), and what fills it, is the background audio of the film were re-broadcasts of Joe Strummer's "Pirate Radio" show on the BBC from the early 1980s. Everything from Elvis Presley to U-Roy, and very little Clash.


One negative aspect of the film, for me, was that the overall premise (global Strummerville immigrant camps filled with movie stars and old punkers, all listening to the Strummer Pirate Radio broadcasts, singing along, and adding their own comments....Johnny Depp in particular) added this weird, aging hippie pretentiousness, of "Joe Strummer was awesome, and only WE truly understand, because we were there."


Of course, these folks have a special window into the man, and his music and politics.. ...absolutely. But some of the monologues bordered on "cultural high ground." When in fact, the beauty of punk rock (unlike the hippy movement...which just sort of died under its own drug-addled weight) is EXACTLY that it's not tied to one group of people in one place in one time. It's viral, and totally unstoppable, and that is the beauty of Joe Strummer, and his music...and inevitably, this film!


Swamp Thing Overall Rating: .............4 muddy boots out of 5



Concept.....................................................4 / 5



Realism.....................................................5 / 5



Cinematography......................................4 / 5



Soundtrack/Score...................................5 / 5



Pretentiousness (negative score)..........3 / 5












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