Reflections

SXSW 2000 Film Festival and Conference

The Filth and the Fury

Dir: Julien Temple; Prod: Anita Camarata, Amanda Temple; Exec Prod: Eric Gardner, Jonathan Weisgal; Ed: Niven Howie; Music: Sex Pistols.

35mm, 105 min., 1999 (RP)

... and the Freak Show, don't forget that, Mr. Temple. The Sex Pistols, arbiters of all that was crude and punk in England from 1976 to their final collapse in 1978, are documented here in all their scuzzy glory. Temple, who helmed the band's oddball film The Great Rock and Roll Swindle way back when, returns to the gob-smacked fields of yore to try to separate the facts from the fiction. The trouble is, with a band like the Pistols, the facts were the fiction ... as would most likely be the case with any band managed by agent-provocateur Malcolm McLaren (seen here in full-body bondage gear offering up choice nuggets of Machiavellian wisdom). Fans of the band will love the previously unseen concert footage (suspiciously clean-sounding, considering the source) and an all-new interview with doomed bassist Sid Vicious, later to take his own life via junkiedom in the wake of murder charges brought against him after the death of his prostitute-groupie girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Unintentional laughs litter the film -- Sid nodding off mid-sentence as Nancy tries to give him his asthma medicine, Johnny Rotten and the yobs goading TV personality Bill Grundy with verbal abuse on BBC1, original bassist Glen Matlock's general whininess -- giving the lads from Spinal Tap a run for their comedy dollar. The bottom line, however, is pretty grim. Co-opted by the mainstream in the years since their implosion, the Pistols were a particularly scruffy and unlikable lot, given to fisticuffs, drug use of heroic proportions, and general scumminess. And yes, they flat-out rocked as well. Temple's entertaining film captures it all for those who weren't there to gum up the works with jet-propelled flecks of spittle themselves.

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