As we enter December and our ears begin to be assaulted by an onslaught of perennial festive tunes, what better time than now to enter the world of The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan? Known to many as one half of the iconic (and now controversially censored) Fairytale of New York duet with Kirsty MacColl, MacGowan is a punk poet icon and this long overdue film combines unseen archival footage with animation from legendary illustrator Ralph Steadman to finally honour the legend’s legacy.
From celebrated documentary filmmaker Julien Temple (Oil City Confidential), Crock of Gold covers MacGowan’s life from his childhood in Ireland all the way to his 60th birthday celebration concert where musicians, movie stars and rock n’ roll outlaws came together to celebrate the man and his legacy. Fans of MacGowan will be delighted that the film’s interviews with the icon throughout present a pure, 100% uncensored Shane MacGowan as he curses and drinks his way through his recollections. While the film clearly presents a frail and damaged man at its centre, it remains almost entirely hagiographic and celebrates him and his lifestyle, with very little time spent discussing his alcoholism and the seemingly detrimental effect it has had on his life. While there is certainly a time and place for those discussions, this is not that place; Crock of Gold is a love letter to the self-destructive star, and a compelling look at the Irish history that has shaped him and his work.
The film certainly isn’t going to move any of Shane MacGowan’s detractors over the fence into his legions of supporters, as all of his infamous bad behaviour is entirely on display here. But for those many who love the man and his music, the film will be a celebratory and nostalgic experience. Packed with stunning archive footage of The Pogues’ most anarchic performances, this rock n’ roll doc is an absolute belter for music fans. But even with the use of animation, the film’s delivery isn’t entirely original – it’s certainly been made by someone who has been around in the documentary scene for a while, as it ticks every box of the genre with a, at times, rather cookie cutter approach.
But the film is, first and foremost, a celebration. Although its glorification of the damaging rock n’ roll lifestyle is at times questionable, fans of MacGowan will be absolutely thrilled with this passionate doc that reminds us why, for better or worse, the punk poet is such an icon.