Beyond the Multiplex:
Julien Temple, “Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten”

by: By Andrew O’Hehir

Nov. 1, 2007 | Look, I’m the wrong person to bring any objectivity to Julien Temple’s movie “Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten.” It partly concerns the pop culture of my own teenage years, always a treacherous zone for any critic (or any other human being). Furthermore, it’s about a rock musician I once worshiped and then abandoned, and discovered again much later, who is now dead. So Temple’s film will inevitably be viewed by people of roughly my age and with roughly my background as a kind of generational myth, which is likely to irritate the crap out of everyone else.

Still, insofar as I can drag myself back from raving fandom to some kind of detachment, I think “The Future Is Unwritten” — which is Temple’s preferred title; the distributors have added “Joe Strummer” over his objections — is the most powerful documentary I’ve seen all year, and one of the two or three best films ever made about an artist or musician. It marks both the high point and something like the moral justification of Temple’s career, which includes big-money music videos for the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Janet Jackson, Tom Petty and many other artists, as well as a pair of splendid documentaries about the Sex Pistols and the 1977-78 punk revolution (“The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” in 1980, and “The Filth and the Fury” in 2000).

So, first Control opens here next week (as mentioned in an earlier post), and this morning I read that there’s a new documentary about Joe Strummer. If it’s also coming to town anytime soon, I’ll be in punk rock movie heaven!