Joe Strummer Was From Mars

The Future Is Unwritten, on DVD

Joe Strummer Was From Mars

Mick Jones puts it best. “His style was totally original,” the Clash guitarist says, “and so was his presence.” One of last year’s most critically lauded bio pics, Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (Legacy), has just been released on DVD. Director and longtime friend Julian Temple details the singer’s life from childhood to his death in 2002 by using Strummer’s own words, taken from his popular BBC radio show, as well as interviews with dozens of friends (Bono, Joe Ely, Johnny Depp, Martin Scorsese, John Cusack, members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), family members, and lesser known close acquaintances. The results are one of the great music documentaries of all time.

It’s a deeply engaging glimpse into a man of many contradictions, one who was loved for his creativity, unadorned passion for life, and doing what was right. A complex story for sure, yet Temple does a remarkable job presenting it in a way that is straightforward, while capturing Strummer’s boundless spirit.

I found the behind-the-scenes look at the Clash most interesting. Their energy and incongruous-yet-intelligent mashup of musical ideas is something I find missing in most of today’s music. Strummer was more than just the Clash and Temple skillfully shows the various sides of the late John Mellor, from the son of a British diplomat to the depressed post-Clash days that end in the glorious redemption of the Mescaleros.

Beyond the theatrical release, presented in 5.1 Dolby surround sound, the DVD contains more than 100 minutes of interviews that didn’t make it into the movie, titled “Conversations With Joe,” which feels like attending a wake where everyone remembers heart-warming stories about the deceased. It also contains a feature-length commentary by Temple, if you’re into that sort of thing, and the theatrical trailer.

The Future Is Unwritten is not just a flick for music lovers, or Clash lovers, but for those who appreciate unbridled humanity and its repercussions, in a time when such qualities are not only missed but sorely lacking.

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