Thursday, March 10, 2011

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten (2008)


  1. Joe Strummer may have been a pioneer in the punk music movement, but in my eyes was more an artist than just a musician. Which leads me to the question, should all musicians be considered artists? And furthermore, are the two titles mutually exclusive or can they be independent of each other? As an artist, I think he held the gift of and the passion for communication and connection and he used music as his medium. I found something abstractly subtle in his message. His work was deep moving and powerful in a helter-skelter, nitty-gritty, chaotic way. At the end of the film Joe Strummer said, “Don’t forget you’re alive.” It is intensely raw and brought taboo issues to an in-your-face awareness; much like Rage Against the Machine. In the film, punk music was described as, “saying the un-sayable and playing the un-playable.” Like Dillon, Rage, and Townes (or any successful protest music), The Clash used music to carry a greater purpose.
    Joe Strummer and The Clash came along at the right time with the right attitude and the right edge; a much needed answer to the void left by the end of the counter-culture wave. His music managed to unify the wondering minds. Joe had a bohemian, culturally enriched childhood until he was sent away to boarding school. There Joe quickly learned that there are two ways to live, but only one way to survive: “to bully or be bullied”. It was here that his resourcefulness and “do-it-yourself” mentality first came in handy. This confining education clashed with his inquisitive mind. I think his worldly outlook not only contributed to the music and the punk scene but also reinforced the importance that local political protest issues can easily be broadened and still apply not only cross-generationally but internationally as well. The dark aspects of the times also influenced him and his older brother more so; giving him the necessary ammunition to break free and revolt. Much like Townes, he became nomadic and found comfort in the poor, industrial, dilapidated areas. I think this is why the unstructured musical form worked perfectly with his resentments against conformity and the disheveled unbalanced societal standings he was protesting against. Like Bob Dillon’s artistic journey, the race riots in London and revolutionary uprising in Belfast motivated Joe Strummer to articulate his message even further. Also, similar to the Civil Rights warriors in American, he too found success through adversity and diversity; and music. His work did not differentiate between politics and art.
    Cinematically speaking this documentary was not like Don’t Look Back; in the cinema verite form. It was carefully thought out and directed in a way to make its own statement about Joe Strummer and The Clash. It began at the end and worked retrospectively; like The Last Waltz. I really enjoyed all of the cameos who commented on the magnitude of his career. Like Soundtrack for a Revolution, the status and eclectic assortment of interviewees lent the idea that his mark on the world blurred the lines between music, politics, and entertainment. The campfire scenes were very interesting and very complementary and declarative of his lifestyle and the punk scene. It almost seemed like a group of homeless or outcasts sitting on the outside of the city looking in; yet vibrantly living. The celebrity interviews were woven into the scenes as if to say that The Clash cut through the levels of status and spoke to all citizens of the world; unifying the masses.

  2. I agree with Leslie, especially about the boarding school, and how the school and just growing up in general came through in his music. Almost like an angry at his captures kind of style. The way he was able to orchestrate the music to do his bidding. Some of the music was punk and all of it ska (in my opinion. It was still a way to get his point across. And the message was there. I was just embedded in the lyrics. Just like rage, the clash and Joe strummer had something to say, and whether people just liked the music or understood what the band had to say, the crowd came in masses. Punks from all walks of life came to mosh and skank to the sounds of a revolutionary poet that was Joe strummer and the clash. The clash only being together for ten years, and lineup changes put together a band that would write songs from the politically charged to ska style protest songs that would be embraced the world over. And whether you just liked the music or understood where the clash was coming from, you were part of a movement.

  3. My main area of focus while watching "The Future is Unwritten" was on the uprising of punk music and the downfall of rock n roll. I was particularly interested in the way in which the band the Clash was formed compared to how i would view a band being formed and how i am aware of several of my favorite bands were formed. They seemed to be a group of homeless people or squatters that were looking for the most functional group of music rebels versus finding a talented group of musicians who sounded the best and strive for a particular sound in the music. They went through dozens of members before settling on the most rebellious group of average musicians that could find and then they began learning how to play together and forming a style of music toward their rebellious intentions compared to finding band member to fit a certain style of music that is already in mind. I feel they had a great amount of success due to their ability to connect with the audience. They allowed their fans to come on stage with them while they played and really displayed the message that they were no better than the next guy but were just trying to come together over the music. the audience seemed to really take to this and their new style of punk music really took off. Throughout the documentary their were several interviews with people that were never identified and they seemed to be filmed under an overpass and in front of a campfire, presumably where a squatter would be going about his business. I feel the directors ideas with this was to go along with the Clash's idea that nobody is above anyone else and if someone has something to say their message should be taken for what it is worth and not be influenced by the fame or celebrity behind it.