Starring: Shane MacGowan, Victoria Mary Clarke, Johnny Depp, Siobhan MacGowan, Maurice MacGowan, Gerry Adams, Bobby Gillespie
Written By: Julien Temple
Directed By: Julien Temple
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan is the latest music documentary that people should see! It’s about the legendary Irish singer and songwriter of the Pogues, Shane MacGowan. It’s for fans of the Pogues and Shane MacGowan obviously, but fans of punk rock, Ireland and just music documentaries in general.
Director Julien Temple, with the help of Shane’s long-time partner and wife Victoria, and producer & friend of Shane’s, Johnny Depp – tells the story of Shane that he rightly deserves. The documentary is told from Shane’s point of view, either from people interviewing him, new and old recordings/interviews, archive footage and other writings. The movie starts out with stories of his childhood in Ireland, his younger & troubled years in London, and then discovering punk rock in the 70s. Soon after, he fronted his own bands (The Nipple Erectors/The Nips, The Pogues, Shane MacGowan and The Popes) and became the legend that he is today, on and off the stage.
I’ve been a fan of the Pogues for 2 decades now. It took awhile to find my way to the Pogues but once I was there, I became a huge fan. I read Victoria’s book with Shane (A Drink with Shane MacGowan), James Fearnley’s excellent book (Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues), and saw some other documentaries on Shane & the Pogues (If I Should Fall from Grace: The Shane MacGowan Story) as well. I’ve traveled to London twice to see the band perform, as well as seeing them perform in the States. I’d linger on Pogues.com forum and chatted a bunch with the late Philip Chevron and developed friendships with fellow Pogues fans. So yeah, I’m a Pogues fan.
When I heard Johnny Depp and Victoria were doing a documentary on Shane, I wanted to see it immediately. I watched the interview session Depp and Temple gave with the press after the movie screened at the San Sebastian Film Festival, talking about the movie and Shane in general. There’s also a biopic in the works as well, with Barry Keoghan set to star and there have been rumblings David Simon has a Pogues musical in the works as well. Lots of Pogues stuff happening it seems.
For the documentary itself, I thought the beginning with Shane talking about his childhood was interesting but I felt like it dragged on a little bit too much. I’m not sure if having animations for every little detail was needed. It helped with the visual of things for some of it but it slowed the movie down in a few spots. In truth, as much as I liked the movie; it could have been about 20 minutes shorter. Most people knew Shane started to drink when he was 5 or 6, but was still a bit jarring to see animations of it this time around. Even though it’s kind of serious, I was laughing when a teenage Shane was scaring his fellow patients with his paintings and songs when he was in the mental hospital. I think the documentary took shape once he got out of there and got into punk rock, then it felt like a music documentary from then on.
Throughout the movie, Victoria, Johnny Depp, Gerry Adams or Bobby Gillespie were trying to get answers out of him. Knowing Shane from previous documentaries and I’m sure they do as well, it’s quite a challenge to get info out of him. I’m assuming why his childhood was heavily focused on in the beginning, well to not only give us context on his upbringing, but his family gave their feelings on it more than Shane himself. When Shane didn’t like a question, he’d say “fuck off” and then want to talk about something else. I’d imagine getting 10 minutes of footage out of him probably took all day or a week even. It’s just the type of guy he is. Mysterious, part joker, part obnoxious, another part stubborn but that’s why people love him. Obviously the main reason why people love and adore Shane is because he’s just a genius songwriter and one of the greatest in the 21st century.
I enjoyed the second part of the movie when it got to the Pogues stuff and Shane was honest with a lot of his takes. So much so that he had handwritten notes at the end of the movie apologizing to his family, bandmates and friends for his remarks. You never know what you’re going to get when Shane starts talking. He could shut down right there or tell a funny joke, which there were quite a few. I think the funniest story was his time in New Zealand towards the end of his initial Pogues run and it involved blue paint. That’s all I will say because I don’t want to spoil it.
Temple was able to piece together all the childhood material, make sense of the stories and had animations done for them, and then create a cohesive story that told people how important Shane is to Ireland and Irish music. It’s been a roller coaster of a life for Shane and this documentary shows a lot of that, but I feel like there’s even more that we’re not hearing. The ending with Shane’s 60th birthday party concert (which I really wanted to fly over to see) put a tear to my eye. Just a sweet ending. Wouldn’t be the first time the Pogues made me shed a tear before.
While the documentary is very interesting, I still think it could have been better in a few ways. Less on his childhood and more of stuff after being in the Pogues. Whether or not Shane had something to do with the narrative of this, I’m not sure. Maybe he just didn’t feel like talking about reuniting with the Pogues for multiple years, getting attacked and multiple injuries he has faced for what seems like decades now. There’s so much more to uncover and talk about, so this definitely won’t be the last Shane MacGowan/Pogues documentary but it’s currently the best one we have right now.
The documentary is now available on DVD and On Demand.
Bottom Line: Very interesting documentary about the man, the myth and the legend: Shane MacGowan!
Running Time: 124 mins