Julien Temple's engrossing portrait of the late Clash frontman uses snippets of everything from Raging Bull to an animated Animal Farm—along with archival scraps, performance clips, and a mosaic of witness testimony—to show how Joe Strummer kept punk's precepts alive. From Los Angeles to New York to Ireland, friends, family, and fans assemble around campfires to remember Joe as the glow fades into dawn. It's Strummer's own voice—a radio-show track filled with warmth and optimism—that threads together the separate locales, along with snatches of favorite songs. Temple's punk-bred refusal to identify (and thus privilege) any of his interview subjects on-screen can be maddening. (Scorsese, Bono, and John Cusack I recognize; those two dozen middle-aged British guys, not so much.) But in the final shots of these makeshift gatherings silhouetted against the lightening sky, the individuals combine into a joyous, vibrant community larger than any one component. As a definition of punk, that probably would have worked for Joe Strummer.
A punk for the ages: Strummer onstage.
Runs Fri., Nov. 9–Thurs., Nov. 15, at Varsity. Not rated. 124 minutes.