Thursday, July 5, 2012: It was a beautiful summer day. I hopped the train from Asbury Park and was at Penn Station in about an hour and a half. Was supposed to have a few friends in tow … but that didn’t quite gel. But that’s okay. I was undeterred and quite determined to see the New York premier of Danny Garcia’s documentary The Rise And Fall Of The Clash at the CBGB Film Festival.
I had purchased four tickets ahead of time to be certain I was getting in the door. I didn’t want anything to interfere with my seeing the film itself, and all my Clash photos in the film. My good friend Geoff Hoover was still going, and seeing how I now had two extra tickets I asked Geoff if he knew of anyone who wanted to go. Geoff works as a video editor in NYC. He did some texting and Geoff’s friend Jonathan Engle of The Noise & Codeine fame would be in attendance. Cool!
I got to the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street more than an hour early. I wanted to be certain we were getting seats. But to my surprise there were no lines. Not yet anyway. So I walked down the street and sat on the stairs of a basketball park facing East Houston Street. I sat there checking mail, tweeting, Facebooking and people watching. In a lull in the action I looked up and there was Danny Garcia just walking down the street. I called out to him and he was as surprised as I was to see each other on the streets of Manhattan. It was the first time we met face to face since he eMailed me back in March of 2009.
We hung out on the street and chatted a bit catching up and then we walked to the theater together. Danny got me a “talent pass” for the evening and he checked in with the festival organizers and executive producer Glenn Aveni. From there we were off to screening room 5 to see the opening credits as a dry run to be certain things looked and sounded good. It would be the first time I would see any of the film other than the trailers Danny had posted.
To my amazement, there were about six or more of my photos in the credit sequence of the film. Some were from my Clash @ The Palladium NYC 1980 series of photos. The coolest part was what Danny DID to the photos. The images were printed out on paper. Those photos were then blow-torched from below. So in the opening sequence here are these photos of the clash starting to bubble and then burst into flames. I thought it was very apropos for the theme of the film and really set the mood of what was to come. Surprised the hell out of me! First to see those images rapid fire in the opening of the film & second how Danny used the images to further the story telling.
Once done with the opening Danny and I headed back down to the street. We wandered around a bit. And eventually my friends Geoff and John showed up. I introduced them to Danny and we hung on the street and chatted while watching folks roll up to the theater. Meanwhile we were also checking out the people coming up to Marky Ramone’s Cruisin’ Kitchen. truck parked on the street behind us. Eventually Marky Ramone himself showed up to see Danny’s film.
While we waited Peal Harbour and friends strolled up too. Pearl is one of the people who brightens up the screen, helping to narrate a difficult story. She’s like a beacon of light in the tumultuous storm you know is brewing. Her bright smiling face and infectious demeanor helped make the bad taste of the break up story go down a little easier.
The premier was sold out. The place was packed! The lights dimmed and we sat and watched the train-in-vain-wreck unfold before our eyes. I like how Danny intercut interviews, still photos, live footage, music and the interviews as tools to help drive the story. Robin Banks is pretty much the narrator throughout the film as is Pearl.
The only Clash member that was willing to be interviewed was Mick Jones. Though Danny did ask Paul, and Topper, Kosmo Vinyl and Bernie Rhodes to be a part of the film, they all decided not to. Which is very sad. It would have been nice to hear their side of the story. Though much of their story was introduced by other means and other people.
I have to say this was not a film with an agenda to crucify anyone. I thought the story was well balanced and as accurate as could be given the lack of participation by four key characters, not including Joe Strummer himself. Though Joe’s thoughts were represented in other ways, old interviews, quotes etc. One of the most amazing feats of the film was making me almost feel sorry for Bernie Rhodes. How the hell did that happen!!?? Good story telling I guess!
I also liked the “old school” 3D technique Danny used on some of my Clash photos. Images were printed several times and then characters in the photo were cut out and mounted in front of the photo to make them seem three dimensional. We’ve all seen the effect done before, but to know it wasn’t a computer generated effect, floored me. The other thing that floored me was seeing how Danny would zoom in, out or pan into and image to focus on a small part of that image to underline a feeling or something that the narrator or interviewee was talking about. He used these visual treats to help drive the story telling in an unexpected way. He visualized my images in ways I was not expecting. All of these elements spoke to my inner-artist.
Though we know the outcome of this story, the ultimate demise of the Clash, the hardest part to watch was the ending. I don’t know if it was the difficult subject matter that most Clash fans don’t want to focus on, or if the film dragged a little towards the end, there’s a point where I just wanted to scream … just pull the trigger already! Put that horse down! It could also be that it’s just straight up painful to watch our heros make mistakes and falter before our eyes. Maybe the realization of their humanity and fallibility is too much to bear. Either way, the film delivers just what we see in the opening credits. The only band that matters, bursting into flames before our eyes and disintegrating into the ashes of history.
And with the lights back up, it was time for the Q&A portion of the event. David Mingay, Danny Garcia, Pearl Harbour, Glenn Aveni, & Rudy Fernandez, were all there to answer questions from fans and the press.
Danny spoke about how the Clash influenced him to make this film. Like the punk D.I.Y. ethic the Clash embodied, Danny too used this ideology and inspiration to push himself to make this movie. When Danny first heard the Clash’s “Spanish Bombs” in his native Spain, he thought the Clash were talking to him directly. They were speaking his language. And in that moment a bond was made with a band Danny never got to witness first hand. But the music spoke to him and influenced him. Just as it influenced me when I first heard them in 1978.
As we left the theater I was disturbed by the sadness of the movie, but I was also walking on air and a bit giddy about having seen so many of my Clash photographs used and interpreted through another artist’s eyes and talent and flashing before my eyes in the darkness of screening room 5 of the Landmark Sunshine Cinema. I think I know what Danny may have felt in his room listening to Spanish Bombs for the first time … he was speaking to me! On so many levels …
It’s Official: The Rise And Fall Of The Clash
The Trailer: The Rise And Fall Of The Clash
The World Premier: The Rise And Fall Of The Clash
The Rise And The Fall Of The Clash On Facebook
The Rise And Fall Of The Clash on IMDB
The Rise And Fall Of The Clash – Kindle Edition
The Rise And Fall Of The Clash DVD Release
The Rise And Fall Of The Clash DVD Release Update
The Rise And Fall Of The Clash Australian Blu-ray