Rockumentaries: Joe Strummer, Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain: About a Boy

Documentary based on audiotape interviews with Cobain intended for a biography. He killed himself before the interviews could be finished. The film follows his childhood and his estrangement from his father. Later, you see him following different music scenes that all had a DIY ethos.

About a Boy helped me understand Cobain’s attaction to Courtney Love. Cobain talks about how great it was to be with Love because she would always make them the center of attention. Cobain was starved for attention, but was too bashful and awkward to get it on his own. Love didn’t suffer from those limitations, so she was able to attract enough eyeballs for both of them.

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten

Footage of Strummer from a young boy through public school and his early days as a musician, followed by the Clash from the day they coalesced to their fame-induced implosion. Then you see Strummer go from punk to middle age, with a decade spent in the wilderness between the Clash and the Mescaleros. There’s an amazing variety of footage and interviews with dozens of people who knew Strummer over the course of a lifetime.

Strummer’s championing of world music makes complete sense once you see his pre-Clash days squatting in abandoned buildings with musicians from around the world.

Note to self: the filmmakers did something brilliant. They filmed many of the interviews at night by campfire light. It’s a nice warm light that makes people look good, it sets an intimate mood, the background is mostly blacked out so you can shoot it anywhere, and it’s cheap. Use that.

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