The Filth and the Fury
Review by Gordon Dymowski
One of the advantages of being the Shrub's "Mature Guy" is that I'm aware
of a lot more history than your average Shrub reader. Whereas most of you
may think that the most rebellious band in modern history is Green Day, I
remember when punk rock was on the news...and it wasn't seen as
commercial, but as a genuine threat to the status quo. Nowadays, in our
prefab teeny bopper plastic music scene, there's a great need for someone
to come down and start kicking ass, taking names, and calling it like
they see it.
Thank God I saw The Filth & the Fury, Julien Temple's latest
documentary about the Sex Pistols and his "apology" for the earlier snow
job known as The Great Rock &smp; Roll Swindle. This movie not only
reminded me what punk was truly about, but did what very few
documentaries do - make you feel as if "you were there". This is the kind
of movie that is more inspiring, heartwarming, and will make you feel
more glad to be alive than your average Hollywood film. As John
Lydon/Johnny Rotten says in the beginning, "The Sex Pistols should
have happened, and did."
Initially, the film sets up the context in which the Pistols arose -
England in the mid-1970's, when common ignorance was on the rise, racial
and socioeconomic strife was increasing, and people - literally - walked
past piles of garbage in the street. Most music of the time...well, one
key sequence juxtaposes an introduction of Emerson, Lake and Palmer with
a dinosaur movie. (One of the great things about this movie is that,
well, there are tons of interesting contextual pieces...you won't see
another movie this year that includes Laurence Olivier as Richard III,
Sid Vicious, and Benny Hill.) Nobody wanted to question the way
things were, they just accepted them, and the music of the time was
overstuffed, plastic, manufactured, and just plain awful.
As the film progresses, we see four young men - Steve Jones, Paul Cook,
John Lydon, and Glen Matlock - gradually come together. We hear the story
through their own words, in silhouette and in old footage. It's a
tale often told - band gets together, can't play worth nothing, and
slowly but surely begins building some notoriety in their native land.
They meet up with Malcolm McLaren (who, for some reason, is interviewed
in an inflatable bondage mask), a man of no fixed talent who sees the Sex
Pistols as his "art project", and begin in earnest. By the time we hear
the omninous chords of "Anarchy in the U.K.", the film has pretty much
begun nailing it on the head.
Of course, as with most rock and roll stories, there's a great period of
rude behavior and great music, but soon, things begin falling apart.
Matlock gets sacked, and Sid Vicious, a fan-turned-band-member who plays
bass as well as I do, is recruited. (The great thing about this
movie is that it totally destroys the myth of Sid Vicious - in his own
words, he damns himself as a talentless, narcissistic self-pitying jerk.
The only really sad thing is that, towards the end, John Lydon chokes up
over Sid's death). All too quickly, the band crashes and burns, and
breaks up. It may sound like an all-too-cliche Behind the Music
episode, but this movie is far from that.
See this movie. See it because - let's face it - it's a vital part of pop
culture. See it because you'll see a documentary that won't put you to
sleep, nor will it bore you to tears. It's well worth your time and
money, and trust me, you won't regret it. The only thing I ask is that
you purchase a copy of Never Mind the Bullocks, Here's the Sex
Pistols and play it at earsplitting volume. If a neighbor says it's
too loud, wave a middle finger in his face, or something. You won't
regret seeing this film.
(out of five)