Fans of documentary style won’t find much to admire in Westway to the World, a whatyacall nonfiction film about the rise and fall of The Clash. Shot by band confidante Don Letts, it’s a standard-issue, band-sanctioned reminiscence that juxtaposes current interview footage with a smattering of performance footage and snippets of other Clash-related film and video. (I wondered whether each band member is depicted individually because they’d pound the hell out of each other if they were put in a room together.)
As an 80-minute crash course on the band’s history, it certainly serves a function. It’s even a bit moving, as when Joe Strummer apparently starts to choke up as he discusses the post-Combat Rock dissolution of the band and has to look away from the camera—but cynics may complain that such behavior smacks of deliberate romantic aggrandizement. No mention is made, for instance, of Strummer and Joe Simonon’s ill-fated attempt to revive the band without mate Mick Jones for 1985’s Cut the Crap, and the documentary disingenuously presents the band as a stadium-filling act in its final days—the Shea Stadium gig depicted here so triumphantly was actually an opening gig for The Who, and, according to the All Music Guide, they “were routinely booed off the stage on every date of the tour.” Engaging yet completely disposable.