The Filth And The Fury

The Filth And The Fury


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Everyone has a view on The Sex Pistols. After the self-conscious integrity of shoe gazing and showy camp of glam rock, they gobbed on fans, played music that insulted the sensibility of the new pop intelligentsia and were hailed as precursors of punk, whatever that was.

Julien Temple used to be the king of fast-cut groovy TV concerts in the years before bands required poncy videos to promote their singles. He was known as the hip insider who used film like a six gun and knew the stars better than they knew themselves.

Copy picture

Flush with success, after Oscar garlands for Chariots Of Fire and Gandhi, Britain's leading film company, Goldcrest, threw money at him to make Colin MacInnes's seminal teenage Soho novel, Absolute Beginners, into a musical with Patsy Kensit, David Bowie and Ray Davies. It was such a disaster, Goldcrest never recovered and Temple faded away.

Incredibly, he returns in some kind of triumph with the best documentary ever made on the rise and fall of a rock band. He has the advantage of John Lydon's highly articulate, scathingly honest commentary, as well as tragic new material of Sid Vicious, months away from suicide, full of remorse and heroin.

He unpicks the mythology surrounding the Kings Road scene, the Sex shop and Malcolm McLaren's invention of an antisocial pop group in the exhausted last-gasp years of the Labour government, when strife was rampant and life on a working-class estate devoid of hope. "When you feel powerless, "Lydon says, "you grab any power you can."

The film is packed with surprise. McLaren comes across as the manipulative villain and Johnny Rotten the misunderstood hero of a deeply cynical industry. The band played like tigers and, compared to the synthetic dance rap of today, dangerous passion. "Only the fakers survive," Lydon says now.

After The Pistols had offended everyone in sight, been flung out of two major record companies, gained a reputation for bad boy antics and captured the soul of an angry underclass, McLaren decided to dump them.

On their last tour of the States, they were forced to stay in cheap motels with the roadies. "At a time when we should have been tight," Lydon remembers, "we couldn't have been looser." Sid was cutting himself on stage, "totally out to lunch." The final gig, somewhere in the South, has Johnny Rotten on his knees, shouting, "No fun! By myself. No fun!", through a howl of guitars. He glares at the half-naked, sweating, screaming kids. "Oh, bollocks" he tells them. "Why should I go on?" He walks off. It is the end.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
Share this with others on...
Documentary about punk badboys the Sex Pistols.
Amazon link

Director: Julien Temple

Starring: Johnny Lydon, Sid Vicious, Malcolm McLaren, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock, Paul Cook

Year: 1999

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Search database: