Saturday, September 06, 2014
The Filth and the Fury
Directed by Julien Temple, The Filth & the Fury is the story about the rise and fall of one of Britain’s greatest bands in the Sex Pistols as it is told from the perspective of its surviving members. The film serves as a counterpoint of the band’s story as it had been previously told in Temple’s 1980 film The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle from the perspective of the band’s manager Malcolm McLaren. Especially as the film features some rare archival footage as well as the complete interview on the Bill Grundy show that gained them notoriety and an old interview with the band’s late bassist Sid Vicious. The result is one of most poignant and enthralling documentaries about one of the greatest bands in the world of punk rock.
From their formation in 1975 at a clothing store run by Malcolm McLaren to the band’s break-up at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in 1978, the brief career of the Sex Pistols remains one of the most enduring stories in the history of rock n’ roll. While there were accusations that the band was essentially a manufactured band run by McLaren who had called them his greatest creation. The documentary gives the band the chance to finally tell their stories as vocalist John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook, and original bassist Glen Matlock are interviewed in the film as they’re presented in silhouette to conceal their old age. Another member that is interviewed is Matlock’s replacement Sid Vicious from a 1978 rare interview he gave some months before his death in 1979. McLaren is also featured in the film but through audio excerpts he gave from The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle as the film is featured prominently with much of its animated footage.
The film isn’t just about the rise and fall of the Pistols but also the chance to reveal where the members had come from as well as what was happening to Great Britain during the 1970s. It was a time of social and political disarray where there were a lot of protests, racial tension, and strikes to the point that garbage was all over the streets of Britain. The Sex Pistols were a product of that sense of disarray as they came in at a time when popular music in Britain was becoming increasingly disconnected with what was happening as pop music gotten very silly and progressive rock had become extremely self-indulgent as the music was being seen as very upper class. Lydon, Jones, Cook, and Matlock all talk about their own dissatisfaction with the music scene though they came from a generation where glam rock was big in the early 70s as Jones was a fan of David Bowie and Roxy Music while Lydon adored American shock rocker Alice Cooper.
With the help of editor Niven Howie and sound editor Paul Davies, Julien Temple scour through many hours of footage that includes some old clips of British comedies of the 1970s as well as some rare footage of news and commercials from those times plus clips of Laurence Olivier’s adaptation of Richard III. Notably as Lydon is someone who is an aficionado of Shakespeare as the footage would play exactly into the band’s own self-destructive ending. The film also features a lot of anecdotes about the band’s rise as well as Matlock’s departure where it was revealed that McLaren was the one who really created the split even though Lydon and Matlock had some issues with each other. Still, Lydon did respect Matlock for teaching Jones and Cook in how to play as he also regretted in how Matlock’s departure was handled by McLaren. Through Vicious’ archival interview, he talks about his own love for the and how he wanted to improve musically despite the fact that he couldn’t really play bass.
The one thing that McLaren and the surviving members of the Pistols definitely agreed on was Nancy Spungen who is also featured in the film through archival footage as she had become Vicious’ girlfriend and introduced him to heroin. Lydon revealed that he was the one who introduced Spungen to Vicious which he regretted and also was very despondent about Vicious’ death. The film doesn’t just feature the band’s infamous appearance at the Bill Grundy show where Steve Jones and John Lydon said a lot of profanity on the show. The film also features some rare live footage including a benefit concert the band did for the children of firemen who were on strike and the cultural impact the band made despite the fact that they made very little money during that time. The film would end with the band’s final concert in 1978 at the Winterland Ballroom where Jones and Cook both expressed their regret over how the band split up and their affiliation with McLaren.
The Filth & the Fury is an outstanding film from Julien Temple about the brief but influential career of the Sex Pistols. The film is definitely one of the most definitive documentaries about any rock band as it does stray from convention while only needing to tell about everything the band did from 1975 through 1978 even though they only released one album in their entire career. Especially as it showcases everything that the band wasn’t despite Malcolm McLaren’s claims which only showcased how full of shit he was. In the end, The Filth & the Fury is a phenomenal film from Julien Temple.
© thevoid99 2014