Clash of interest

Rekindled friendship leads to film

For some, it was the Stones or the Beatles, but for young filmmaker Julien Temple living in a squat in West London, it came down to the Sex Pistols or the Clash.

Having already spent time shooting footage of both over a three-month period in the late 1970s, Temple's involvement in what would become "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" meant he chose the Pistols as his main project.

"As a result (of sticking with the Sex Pistols), I was cast out into the darkness by (the Clash's) Joe Strummer and didn't see him again for 25 years," Temple says.

But more than 25 years later, the man who claims he was put on a "do not hire to make films" list by all and sundry after directing the much-maligned "Absolute Beginners" movie is about to see his critically acclaimed documentary, "Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten," on Strummer and his musical career hit DVD stores.

"(Strummer) turned up at my house in Somerset out of the blue with a friend of a friend," Temple says. "We stayed up all night trying to make a hot-air balloon for my kids. We finally got the thing floating around dawn and it went on fire and sort of sailed away. It was a giant fireball going up into the dawn, and Joe said, 'This is it, I'm going to live here.' Two months later, he'd bought a farm up the road."

Temple began shooting hours of interviews to add to what would become a pool of more than 800 hours of footage to whittle down to just over two hours for the feature documentary. "I wanted to celebrate him (Strummer) but not be an anorak fan," Temple says. He says his music documentaries encapsulate cultural moments beyond the tunes or the bands.

Putting together such documentaries — for "Glastonbury," Temple waded through 1,500 hours shot by 10 crews over five years — requires a good researcher, patience and the ability to hope for a discovery akin to an archaeological dig. For "Strummer," Temple had the "eureka" moment. "Someone sent in a roll of undeveloped Super 8 film that turned out to be footage of Strummer loading a van with the 101ers," Temple says.

Temple now is putting together a fictional piece based on an Australian opera "The Eternity Man" that details the story of an illiterate homeless man in Sydney who could only write one word: eternity.

He also has plans for one more music-based documentary. "I want to do one other film about the Kinks," Temple says. "I used to bunk off school and watch them drink. I learned a lot from watching them drink."

Stuart Kemp
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