I Need A Dodge! Joe Strummer On The Run


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

I Need A Dodge! Joe Strummer On The Run
"Everything feels flexible in a film that seems to reflect human frailty and twist it into strength."

He was born in Turkey, travelled the world as a small child and went on to make his name in London, but in Spain Joe Strummer is remembered like a local legend. He fled to Granada in 1984 after the messy break-up of The Clash and stayed there for a year, helping local bands and spending large amounts of money on ill-fated musical experiments. Despite shouting a lot, he made many friends and won many new fans. He also obtained a Dodge, which he enjoyed driving at unreasonable speeds along public highways and through narrow old city streets. Then, some time in 1985, he left it in a parking garage and forgot where it was.

Filmmaker Nick Hall's efforts to track down the car, inspired by a radio interview Strummer gave in 1997, are the ostensible premise of this documentary, but it meanders so much in its 67-minute running time that little is really said on the subject. Everybody's memories differ anyway; those who rode in it can't even agree on what colour it was. This gives the film an interesting ambiguous quality: how can we be sure that they accurately remember anything else? So many stories are told, however, that there must be some truth in there, and they're highly entertaining to listen to.

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Interviewing members of The Clash's second incarnation, Strummer's then partner Gaby and practically everyone he knew in Italy, the film morphs to tell the story of not just one man but a whole musical scene, a group of creative people who continue to generate ideas. Back then, Strummer's political brand of punk was eagerly adopted in a Spain rife with class conflict. Making speeches from the stage or singing in Spanish, he connected easily with local revolutionary spirit. What is remembered most keenly, however, is his offstage behaviour. Although he was less interested in personal publicity than most of his fellow band members, he clearly got into his share of scrapes, and those who shared them seem to be having every bit as much fun in the recollection.

This is not a critical account of Strummer's time in Spain, but it's not all flattery either, and little hints at the stress he was under add a poignant flavour to the whole. The word 'dodge' is carefully translated into Spanish, explained not just in terms of the car but also in terms of Strummer's desire for escape, something he may not have found in Spain to the extent he hoped. it's part of a series of games with words hidden within the film; Strummer's own first name is pronounced in at least three different ways, whilst some interviewees try to hedge their bets and say something that blends them. Everything feels flexible in a film that seems to reflect human frailty and twist it into strength.

As for the car, you won't find any spoilers here, except to say that you'll be shocked by what somebody might have done in it.

Reviewed on: 12 Feb 2015
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The director goes in search of a classic Dodge that Joe Strummer once told a radio host he had lost somewhere in Madrid.

Director: Nick Hall

Year: 2014

Runtime: 67 minutes

Country: UK, Spain


Glasgow 2015

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