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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 Edward Johnson-Ott
3 stars out of 4

"The Filth and the Fury" is the third film about the Sex Pistols. Not bad for a band that was barely together for two years and only recorded one studio album. "The Sex Pistols had to end when it did," says frontman John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon, "but it didn't have to end how it did." He's right, of course, which is what makes this documentary so fascinating.

The Sex Pistols came along at the perfect time. They weren't the first punk band, or the best, but they were certainly the most explosive. Relatively few people ever saw the group perform (they were banned in Britain for a time and toured their homeland as SPOTS Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly), but their impact was immense. Even in America, where they received scant attention from the general public, the band served as an early warning to the purveyors of leaden '70s corporate rock that change was on its way.

For years, Sex Pistol manager Malcolm McLaren has claimed that the group was his creation, a sort-of punk rock version of the Monkees. Julien Temple's crackling, multimedia documentary gives the surviving Sex Pistols a chance to tell their side of the story. The truth probably lies somewhere in-between McLaren's version and theirs, but that takes nothing away from this rousing feature.

All of the most notorious moments from the Sex Pistols' rise and fall are here: their headline-making, obscenity filled appearance on an English talk show, their performance of the blissfully obnoxious "God Save the Queen" on the river Thames during the celebration of Queen Elizabeth's silver anniversary jubilee, even their abbreviated final concert at San Francisco's Winterland in January 1978. The footage is accompanied by recently recorded commentary from Lydon, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bassist Glen Matlock. Temple shows the men only in silhouette, which helps to keep the focus of the production squarely in the glory days. Doomed bassist Sid Vicious also appears, in an interview shot a few months before his death from a heroin overdose.

Thankfully, Temple doesn't lionize the band. They appear as they were; a group of immature boys who, while striking out blindly in all directions, made one of the most vital, dynamic albums in the history of rock and roll.

In addition to the expected music and mayhem, there are several surprises, including the normally snotty Lydon showing actual human feelings while discussing the death of Sid Vicious (of course, he could be faking with an attention whore like Lydon, you can never be sure). The best scene has the Sex Pistols appearing at a benefit for the children of striking firefighters. Watching the cheerful interactions between the punks and the little ones is worth the price of admission alone.

Copyright 2000 Edward Johnson-Ott

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