Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Future is Unwritten

Career opportunities are the ones that never knock
Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock
Career opportunity, the ones that never knock

Last week my friend Dan took me to see The Future is Unwritten, the documentary about Joe Strummer, the man who wrote those words. It’s a really great piece of filmmaking and it helps if you are a fan of the band The Clash and punk rock but there are several things that make it stand out as a film.

The film opens with an amazing image of him recording the vocal track to White Riot. They have taken out all the other musical tracks and all you hear is Strummer screaming the lyrics into a microphone. It is an arresting image and draws you into the film immediately. Slowly the instrumental tracks fade in and White Riot as we know it plays, but until that happens all we see is a mad Brit screaming into a microphone.

There is no narration. The entire Strummer story is told through pictures and interviews with friends and colleagues. Hard to pull off, I have tried, but it really works. This technique drops the viewer into the film and we find our own path rather than have someone lead us.

Many of the interviews are done around a campfire at night. Interesting the first couple of times you see it, then frankly annoying…until near the end of the film when we discover Joe Strummer loved campfires and towards the end of his life he began inviting people over to sit around a campfire. Suddenly this visual style had meaning.

Julien Temple directed. He is best known as a music video director, but clearly the subject had meaning to him- he was friends with the band in the 1970s- and had a lot of his own archived material in the film. The Future is Unwritten is clearly a labor of love. When we saw it at the Music Box Theater it was the only theater in the country screening the film, though it had a successful festival run. If you are a fan of the Clash or just want to see an artist at work see the film.

Joe Strummer died from an undiagnosed heart defect on his couch in December of 2002 shortly after returning from walking his dog. The day before he mailed Christmas cards to his friends, cards he designed and created. They arrived just as those friends were learning about his passing.


1 comment:

John Murray said...

Great post. I had not heard of the doc and will try to see it soon if it's still in town.

There's something downright visceral about watching/hearing a vocalist sing his/her guts out into a microphone without any additional sound design or musical elements.