Paulie Styren: I Am a Cliché is a 2021 British documentary about the lead singer of the 1970s punk band X-Ray Spex. Directed by: Celeste Bell and Paul Sng to a script written with Zoe Howe.


Paulie Steeren becomes the first woman of colour in Britain to play in a successful rock band. She introduced the world to a new sound of rebellion, using her unconventional voice to sing about identity, consumerism, postmodernism and everything she saw happening in Britain in the late 1970s – with a rare presence of science. As president of X-Ray Spex, the Anglo-Somali punk musician was also a major inspiration for the Riot Grrrl and Afropunk movements.

But the late punk dissident didn’t just leave a huge cultural mark. She leaves behind her daughter Celeste Bell, who has become the unwitting guardian of her mother’s legacy and her demons. Misogyny, racism, and mental illness have poisoned Paulie’s life, while lingering trauma has affected Celeste’s childhood and her relationship with the couple.

Featuring never-before-seen archival footage and rare diary entries voiced by Oscar-nominated Ruth Negga, the documentary follows Celeste as she explores her mother’s secret art archives and travels across three continents to better understand the iconic Paulie and Paulie’s mother.

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Central to the film’s narrative is Bell herself, who grew up with a completely different person from the iconoclastic figure who shaped her mother’s public image. The documentary sensitively highlights mental illness and also gives voice to the singer through diary entries and poems she wrote – in a performance by Oscar nominee Ruth Negga. AnOther

Bell, who also co-wrote her biography, tells the story of her mother’s life through archival interviews, video footage and excerpts from Paulie’s diary, read by Ruth Negga. This approach is a bit squeaky at first, but eventually it becomes a force of polystyrene : I’m a cliché. We get a glimpse of history, with all its flaws, which helps us understand an amazing woman. The crowd in the back

…is Paulie Styren, discussed not in terms of graphic positions, but in terms of race, gender, body image, the insecurity that comes with being a girl in a male punk space. The soundtrack contains a polyphony of voices that unites Stirren himself, Negg-as-Stirren and Bell, as well as family members, spectators and contemporaries, and those who followed Poli…. followed. Synesthesia

I’m a cliché – it’s a beautiful, gentle film that treats its subject with respect and kindness. Celeste talks about how she feels closer to her mother as she goes through her archives years after her death. She had traveled many miles, living her life and suffering under her mother’s will. She did a wonderful tribute in that film. Popcorn review

By focusing on Paulie’s achievements as a writer, the film gives her a chance to speak for herself as much as possible: to be heard and not just seen… Few female artists get this kind of treatment. It is a refreshing and always fascinating work. An eye for cinema

…paints a fascinating picture of a creative and innovative young woman who goes against the grain and breaks new ground in the field of pop music. The band was kind of her baby, which she put together by promoting the musicians in the music press. She wrote all her material….Most amateur footage shows Paulie playing with the band. Reform

Date of publication :

5. March 2021 online via Modern Movies


Kathleen Hannah… I
Polystyrene … I 19 Don Letts… I
Thurston Moore… I 19 Neneh Cherry… I
Vivienne Westwood… I am
Celeste Bell… I
Youth… I 19 Bruno Aleph The Magician … Я

Technical details :

89 minutes.



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