DVD Review: The Rise And Fall Of The Clash
Does the world really need another Clash documentary? Given that we already have Don Letts’ official history in Westway To The World (2000), Julien Temple’s Joe Strummer biopic The Future Is Unwritten (2007) and the semi-biographical tour movie Rude Boy (1980) starring the band themselves, on top of the countless thousands of hours of talking heads TV shows and others I’ve probably missed, you do start to wonder if there’s a great deal left to be said.
So what about this one then, Danny Garcia’s 2012 documentary now released on DVD? To start with this isn’t really a film about “The Rise And Fall” of The Clash, as it doesn’t tell you much about the rise at all, it is assumed you already know about that. It should perhaps more be thought of as “The Clash: Why Did They Split Up?” as, after a little preamble, Garcia dives straight into the story a few albums in when the band are already massively successful, and focuses on their demise, as well as the question of their controversial manager Bernie Rhodes.
After watching this film, do I know and understand better why The Clash broke up? Not really, as much as you analyse or interrogate the story, it’s just something that happens when a band gets really big, spends too much time living in each other’s pockets and the tensions start to blow up. You either work that out as a band or you implode, The Clash imploded.
However, where this film does provide a little new material is about the band after the departure of Mick Jones in 1983 up to their final end in 1986. This period and lineup is often airbrushed out in other official documentaries, producing the band’s worst album, Cut The Crap, in 1985. Garcia speaks to the lesser-known musicians who completed that lineup (Pete Howard on drums, and Nick Sheppard and Vince White who together replaced Mick Jones on guitar), and it’s interesting to get their rarely heard viewpoints, as well as a little more depth into why they made such an appalling record.
If you want to watch one documentary about The Clash, it wouldn’t be this, I’d still recommend Westway To The World. However, if you’re curious about what goes unsaid in the other films, there are a few awkward truths voiced in this one.