Film Review : The Rise And Fall Of The Clash
Director-Danny Garcia, Limited Release.
So here we are, the Glasgow premiere of a film about a band that meant so much to so many people from the city.
The Clash linger like a ghost around Glasgow’s streets. Everyone from the era has a tale; Strummer appearing outside Listen Records on Renfield Street and taking a pillion on a fan’s motorcycle up to the West End and Glasgow Uni’s QMU when he was told about the student-only policy. Gig abruptly pulled.
Getting “lifted”Â by the Glasgow polis outside of The Apollo when he and Simonon attempted to intervene in a fracas. The night in the cells singing “The Prisoner”Â with fans who’d also had their collars felt.
The legendary shows with Suicide and The Specials as support, the bouncers steaming in to the young punks, most my age, (14), and the band stopping the show to jump in.
There’s a whole generation of Glaswegian blokes who still use The Clash as a template for what clothes they chose to go out. Me, I’m taking the fifth”Â¦”Â¦.
The audience for this one-night-only screening reflects the above. Lots of well-kent faces on show, lots of slicked back, thinning quiffs and a few pairs of brothel creepers.
Garcia thanks us for attending and the curtains go back.
The movie immediately appears a bit “so what”Â. The age-old clichÃÂ©d stencil graphics, the fuzzy, out of focus riot shots, the familiar footage.
The narrative drags.
We’re given interviews with Pearl Harbor, Anthony Mingay (Rude Boy director), a couple of The Blockheads, Viv Albertine and others. The only early insights are from band security Ray Jordan, who is an erudite, articulate witness. The over-riding theme throughout the first hour is of a band of naive innocents being led astray by Bernie Rhodes, who despite declining to be interviewed has several taped-phonecall appearances throughout.
It’s irritating to constantly see the same pieces of footage replayed as each protagonist pictured is spoken of.
The only original Clash member appearing is Mick Jones, who’s cheerful, self-effacing comments reinforce his likeability but offer nothing new.
The most interesting part of the film is the interviews with Clash Mark 2 members Vince White, Nick Sheppard and Pete Howard.
White comes across, and it may be due to editing, as an over-emotional, bitter and garbled drunk. I would suggest that you read his memoir, Out Of Control for a truer picture of the man.
The two others seem embittered if somewhat proud of their achievements. It’s a shame that history has left such a poor shadow over that line-up, but as one commentator adds, it’s difficult for one man to fill Jonesey’s shoes, never mind two.
From reading James Fearnley’s Pogues book, I’d expected Strummer to come over as less than innocent. His alleged problems with infidelity and prima donna excess is never mentioned despite it clearly being an issue in The Clash’s latter days.
Oddly, a one-off mention of Strummer’s “depression”Â is never elaborated on at all. This is certainly not an issue I’ve heard of in the many Clash books and films I’ve perused and seems to be thrown off as an aside.
Topper’s drug problems are again dealt with in a scene, and although some of the footage of him opiated in a taxi is disturbing, it’s never really delved into other than as a reason for his dismissal.
Given the previous in-depth analysis of The Clash in the Strummer biopic and Don Letts’ peerless Westway to The World I was left wondering what the point of “Rise And Fall”Â is.
Over nearly two hours of movie, we’re left with the verdict that “it was all Rhodes’ fault”Â. An unsatisfactory, simplistic and one-dimensional look at the last days of a band that were as complex as they were contradictory.
I believe Garcia, who is clearly way too young to have been around at the time has the best of intentions, but Rise And Fall Of The Clash comes across as a Clash movie too far.