Synopsis by Tom Wiener
Co-founder, lead singer, and principal songwriter for the seminal Irish band the Pogues, Shane MacGowan made music that was both beautiful and brutal, much of it driven by personal demons. This documentary portrait features extensive archival footage of MacGowan's career, inspired by the twin poles of traditional Irish music and the raging punk scene of the late '70s (he credits John Lydon of the Sex Pistols and that band's anti-British sentiments as a major influence). We see videos of his early band the Nips (short for the Nipple Erectors); performance footage of the Pogues; clips from studio sessions with Elvis Costello, who produced the band's acclaimed Rum, Sodomy and the Lash (and married the band's bass player, Caitlin O'Riordan); a TV appearance with Sinead O'Connor, who publicly criticized MacGowan's drinking, rousing his ire; and the video for the band's justly famous Christmas song, "Fairytale of New York," with Kirsty MacColl. There are interviews with MacGowan's parents, who speak candidly of their son's difficult childhood growing up in an urban slum in England, where the family had moved to find employment; his wife Victoria Clarke; colleagues Philip Gaston, Deirdre Mahoney, Nick Cave, and Liam Clancy; and bandmates who discuss the decision to sack their front man in 1990. Recent footage finds MacGowan a striking figure of decrepitude -- most of his front teeth are missing, and he is never far from a drink and a cigarette -- who also manages to maintain a certain air of besotted dignity. The film opens with a 2000 Christmas Eve performance in Dublin by MacGowan's band, the Popes; MacGowan mumbles his way through one of his songs, but the audience ably offers vocal support.
alcoholism, archival-footage, band [music group], career-retrospective, concert-footage, interview, Irish [nationality], punk-rock, singer, songwriter