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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

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Review by Mark Fleming
3½ stars out of 4

With unnerving insight, Julian Temple recognised one young band's latent power, and began documenting their brief, brilliant career at an early stage. From over 20 hours of chaotic gig footage and interviews, he has cobbled together an authentic, unsentimental testimony that makes for compulsive viewing.

John (Sid Vicious) Beverley's short life is a real tragedy. He was a surprisingly quietly-spoken and articulate young man who succumbed to heroin. At times Temple interviews him smacked out of his head where he begins snoring mid-sentence. Jones and Cook seem never to have outgrown the role of professional geezers, relishing tales of knocking off David Bowie's concert gear.

Temple's affection for the complex and often fragile characters at the heart the 70's youth movement drives this film. He is adamant that the players are allowed to tell it as it was. All the obstacles placed in the way of this band are revealed, from Carol-singing Welsh picketing concert halls, to rednecks treating the band like circus freaks, to the record company executives planning ways to exploit their fame.

But Temple places the embryonic Punk era in context. 1976 London is foreboding, Dickensian; still riddled with WW2 bombsites. Protracted council strikes have created rat-infested garbage mountains. The neo-fascist National Front parade streets where Teddy Boys regard themselves as the pinnacle of fashion. One wild-eyed NF supporter is an appalling example of white working class hatred.

There is one superlative scene which seems to summarise the fact that if Punk was anti-social rebellion, it was specifically anti-establishment rebellion. On Christmas Day 1976 in Huddersfield, the tabloid pariahs give a benefit party for the children of striking Firemen. The kids proceed to launch custard pies at the Sex Pistols.

Punk's DIY spirit stands peculiarly frozen in history. Anyone under a certain age must wonder what all the fuss was about. Today, swearing, pierced, multi-tattooed bands are a staple diet of MTV; they might see themselves as rebels but they are firstly superstars who fill stadiums and pay for their producers' exotic holidays. Temple, along with a whole generation of now middle-aged ex-Punks, realise that the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones and their contemporaries, for a blink in time, produced the most incendiary rock n' roll ever.

Copyright 2001 Mark Fleming

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