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Monday, May 21, 2007

The Future of England (Is Unwritten)

posted by on May 21 at 20:31 PM

The German poster

Long before the line-up was announced, I was hoping SIFF would program these two punk-oriented films, so I’m thrilled they came through (Anglophiles rejoice!). I haven’t seen either yet (This Is England screens for the press tomorrow), but my hopes are high based on the good reviews they’ve been garnering. Click here
for England’s Dreaming’s Jon Savage on This Is England and here for Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir on The Future Is Unwritten. I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast the two, so here goes.

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- This Is England is a narrative feature from Shane Meadows (TwentyFourSeven, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands).
- Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten is a non-fiction feature from Julien Temple (The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle).
- The compact Meadows is 34 years old. The lanky Temple is 54.
- Meadows went to Burton Technical College, where he met actor Paddy Considine (Dead Man’s Shoes). Temple went to Cambridge.

Meadows: skin for life

- This Is England is Meadows’ sixth feature. The Future Is Unwritten is Temple’s 11th…not counting his video collections.
- Temple also directs narrative features
(Earth Girls Are Easy, Pandaemonium, etc.).
- This Is England is semi-autobiographical. Note that the main
character is named Shaun (non-pro Thomas Turgoose).
- Meadows often works with the same actors
(Considine, Vicky McClure, Andrew Shim, etc.).
- Temple often works with the same musicians
(Mick Jagger, David Bowie, the Kinks, etc.).
- Temple’s narrative films often feature musicians,
like Sade (Absolute Beginners) and Tupac (Bullet).

Up yours, mate!

- This Is England concerns a boy who gets caught up in the skinhead movement in the early-1980s.
- The Future Is Unwritten concerns a man who gets caught up in the punk movement in the early-1980s. (That is, of course, over-simplification. Joe Strummer helped to create punk in the 1970s—lending it a look, a voice, an attitude. Better yet: a purpose.)
- The chrome domes in England dig reggae and ska as much as punk.
- Same for Strummer, who covered Jamaican classics like "Police
and Thieves" (Junior Murvin) and "Armagideon Time" (Willie Williams) and often took reggae artists on tour with the Clash.

Temple - passion for life

- This Is England looks at both racist and non-racist skins.
- During his lifetime, Joe Strummer railed against the National Front and was part of Britain's Rock Against Racism campaign (in his younger days, Strummer's brother flirted with neo-Nazism).
- This Is England is set amongst the working class.
- Though born a (left-leaning) diplomat's son,
Strummer's sympathies were with the working class.
- In This Is England, Shaun has a friend named Woody.
- Joe Strummer's nickname was Woody (as in Guthrie).

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Finally, This Is England takes its name from a tune by Joe Strummer, which appears on the Mick Jones-free Cut the Crap (1985). The album, their last, may be one of the band's weaker moments, but "This Is England" is a great song—and a great title for a film. Also, Temple will be in town to support The Future Is Unwritten. Steve Buscemi will be, too (supporting Interview). The connection? Buscemi, who pops up in Future, co-starred with Strummer in Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train. This Is England screens on 5/25 and 5/29. Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten screens on 6/3 and 6/5. For more information, The Stranger's SIFF Notes hit the streets this week.

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I think Strummer's last was his best. In response to Stephanie Pure's promotion for the Vera Project in 2003, I included a couple thoughts on Streetcore. 'Arms Aloft' is the Aberdeen song.

Posted by Garrett | May 22, 2007 4:27 AM

I'm happy to say This Is England lived up to my expectations (sadly, Dans Paris did not, though Louis Garrel made it worth my while). The characters in England are divided into two camps, the affectionate, ska-loving skins and the violent, racist skins. First, fatherless Sean (a terrific Thomas Turgoose) is embraced by the former, but then he's enticed by the Dark Side, which is to say the National Front. This is England indeed. The final shot is a rip straight from Truffaut, but it's a good one. Great soundtrack, too.

Posted by Kathy Fennessy | May 25, 2007 7:44 PM

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