Saturday, 29 August 2015

The Filth & the Fury

I'm in between books at the moment and one candidate for my next read was Jon Savage's England's Dreaming. This would have been my third, possibly my fourth read of this book, so instead I scratched that itch with a screening yesterday evening of The Filth & the Fury, Julien Temple's excellent 2000 documentary on the Sex Pistols. Despite the group's well documented history, Temple's film manages to rejuvenate all those shopworn stories from their extraordinary 26 month existence with a combination of incredible archive footage of the band and revelatory interviews past and present with all five Pistols. John Lydon in particular is in tremendous form, with a laser-like wit (“It was like a Harold Pinter play, it shouldn’t have worked, but it did”) and abrasive as ever – his reflections on the botched tour of America and Malcolm McLaren’s schemes to oust him from the group dovetail perfectly with footage from the Winterland show, where the exhausted, disillusioned looking front man declares “Oh bollocks, why should I carry on”. And there’s another great moment where Lydon briefly loses his steely composure as he rakes over the ashes of Sid Vicious' death.

Throughout the film Temple brilliantly contextualizes the Pistols history with footage of Britain in the fag-end of the 70’s, stricken with national strikes and power outages, civic disorder and race riots. Watching The Filth & the Fury again I wondered was the film Julien Temple’s act of contrition for making The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle ? Certainly the deck is stacked against Malcolm McLaren who emerges as little more than a cheap smut peddler who took his shot and blew it. I haven’t listened to Temple’s audio commentary but I imagine if relations between himself and McLaren weren’t sour before the film, they surely must have been afterwards…

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