I have had the pleasure to interview many people I admire while writing for Film Threat, but I have to say that my little punk-rock heart skipped a beat when I found out I had the opportunity to talk to legendary director Julien Temple. He has made documentaries about some of the coolest musicians out there, such as Joe Strummer and The Sex Pistols. This time he turns his lens on notorious Irish musician Shane MacGowan in Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan.
The Pogues are one of the most amazing bands ever to have existed, and they wouldn’t have ever been without Shane. Temple takes us through a tour of Shane’s life and Irish history, with intimate conversations between Shane and a number of (some famous) friends. I was delighted to talk to Temple about the surly, drunken Irish legend, among other things. Read on to get the full scoop.
“…some of the most interesting musicians are the ones that have been deeply interested in film.”
You’ve worked with so many musicians, I can’t even count how many, but I’m wondering what qualities do you think most overlap between musicians and filmmakers?
Julien Temple: That’s an interesting question. Well, a bit bizarrely, I’ve worked with a lot of musicians, and I think some of the most interesting musicians are the ones that have been deeply interested in film. I like filmmakers who are deeply interested in music, as well. I do find the force of the two things together quite overwhelming, still something magic to me. Ray Davies has directed films himself. People like David Bowie, who thought very deeply about cinema and was obviously concerned with acting in film. Mick Jagger has a greater sense of cinema and is now producing films and having acted in them. You know, I’ve made films with The Sex Pistols, with The Clash. It’s been a dynamic where the film and the music are treated equally, which I really, really like. I’ve been lucky to work with those kinds of people.
I was debating whether or not to tell you this because I’m not trying to sound like a sycophant or anything, but I’m 37, and the first documentary I ever watched BY CHOICE was The Filth and The Fury. So I think you do a good job of marrying the two (film and music) pretty seamlessly, and I just wanted you to know that.
Right, well, that’s the aim, to really use the power of each to create something unique. Something that they could do together that they couldn’t do without each other in a way. The danger with film is it becomes a literal translation of the music. The music is so open-ended and has so many multiple meanings that you want to try and not stomp on that. Reduce it with images that don’t give you any other ambiguities or ways of feeling the music. You have to be aware that an image can stamp itself on music and then damage the music as a result, so there’s a kind of duty of respect that the music is mysterious as it ever was when you get to the end result.