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The Filth and the Fury

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Filth and the Fury

Starring: Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious
Director: Julien Temple
Rated: NR
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: January 2000
Genres: Music, Documentary

*Also starring: Steve Jones, Malcolm McLaren

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

The punk rock group known as the Sex Pistols cared more about chaos than their music, according to one of the many interviewees in Julien Temple's documentary about their lives. Called THE FILTH AND THE FURY, the film has a highly limited appeal. For fans of the group or of the group's more outlandish members, like Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten, the movie will certainly be a must-see picture. But for others, the movie might better be thought of as THE OBNOXIOUS AND THE REPETITIVE. A more insightful film with a universal appeal, Doug Pray's HYPE! about Seattle's grunge rock movement covers similarly outlandish groups but does it with more insight and interest.

THE FILTH AND THE FURY starts off quite promisingly, crediting the social unrest in Britain in the mid-1970s as the group's genesis. Citing the misconception that "everyone" was on the dole, the story suggests that the band was formed by working-class youths as a protest against unemployment and conformity. The latter has a wonderful irony since soon everyone was wearing the same torn clothes to protest against conformity. With wonderful bits of archival film footage, this brief segment is fascinating.

If painters can become famous by randomly throwing bits of paint at a canvas, why shouldn't a band become a hit solely on the strength of their foul behavior on the stage and in public? Who cares what they sound like? People watch them, intrigued by what ridiculous thing they will do next. It's a formula that radio schlock jock Howard Stern has used to great success.

The Sex Pistols spit on their fans, who can't get enough of the bad boys' antics. "Spit on us again; we love it," they appear to say.

After making these points and variations on them, the documentary gets stuck like an old record player. Running out of things to say, it interviews the band members -- except for Sid, who died in a heroin overdose -- again and again to get their opinions on the band and it's popularity. Their fans loved the band with their anti-establishment rhetoric in songs such as "I Am An Anti-Christ" and "God Save The Queen: She's No Human Being." We get to see, or have to see, depending on your point of view, lots of concert footage.

One of the band members best summed up their popularity. The group was "a bit like a Harold Pinter play," he explains. "It shouldn't work, but it did."

THE FILTH AND THE FURY runs 1:48. It is rated R for pervasive strong language, drugs and sexual content and would be acceptable only for high school seniors and older.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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