Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché | Review | Glasgow Film Festival | ★★★★★
Finally, a touching and sensational cut ‘n’ paste memoir of the queen of DIY revolution, Poly Styrene.
‘Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard. I say OH BONDAGE! UP YOURS!’ – so goes Poly Styrene’s most famous song lyric with her band X-Ray Spex. Sadly, the first line still holds some truth with her legacy never quite being recognised within the history of music legends.
However Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché is here to smash all that up and acknowledge the struggles and triumphs of the person behind Poly Styrene, Marianne Joan Elliott-Said – dealing with her mixed-race identity, not fitting in and wanting to destroy the fake plastic world that was all around us.
The documentary is pieced together from archive clips of Poly with ghostly voiceovers by Celeste Bell and a host of celebrity admirers, friends and family, rather than the usual (boring) visual of talking heads in a studio. The footage of Poly’s interviews, electrifying live gig visuals, poems and diary entries make for a beautiful collage of an often messy life of wonder and destruction.
The big highs of fame are contrasted with internal struggles with understanding the world, mental health (Poly lived with bipolar disorder) and not being able to care for her daughter at times. The story is an emotional journey of discovery, with daughter Celeste (re-)discovering her unconventional mother afresh – from her 70s stardom, to being a Hare Krishna, and even making a mother-daughter record before Marianne’s untimely death at 53 in 2011.
It is a tear-jerking tale of destroying the Poly persona to survive as Marianne. The documentary is, however, ultimately uplifting and the power of Poly Strene’s DIY attitude against plastic and the machine is truly inspiring for our age. Watch this groundbreaking movie and share the rollercoaster human story of punk princess Poly Styrene!