Screen Reviews

The Filth and the Fury

Directed by Julien Temple

Starring the Sex Pistols

Now is the winter of the UK’s discontent, made glorious spring by that son of York, Malcolm McLaren! Awash in unemployment and desperation, 1975 was ripe for a new sound to rise across the land. A loud, dissonant sound, fired by anger and an utter lack of ANY discernable musical skill swept the world and spat in the face of the establishment. Four losers, unable to get any sort of real jobs, create punk rock from the relics of Teddy Boy style and rubber bondage gear. Eventual they add the strung out Sid Vicious, and drift from record company to record company, sometimes not staying long enough to actually find the office. Hated, banned, perennially broke and shafted by their management and themselves, they still succeed in changing the face of music. Maybe they didn’t save England, but they sure got everyone’s attention.

A snappy mŽlange of live concert films and contemporary TV punctuate interviews conducted as if the interviewee were in the witness protection program. Contemporary bands such as Roxy Music, the New York Dolls and Bowie appear as context for the revolution trigged by punk. Funny and crude, the Pistols conquered with the confidence of men with absolutely nothing to lose. Ultimately, they lost even that nothing they started with, but they scraped out one brilliant album before self-destructing on stage in San Francisco. They made it to America, and like so many pioneers before, died with arrows in their backs. Johnny Rotten fancied himself a sort of Richard the Third character, and the parallel is apt. He was distorted, the band was distorted, everyone hated him and what he was doing, and even in the total disaster of the Pistols’ miserable career, he affected more people than any dinosaur stadium rockers of the era. The Pistols collapsed at just the right time and for all the wrong reasons, leaving only the fakes to survive.


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