The Filth And The Fury (VCI)
The Sex Pistols possibly have the credit of being the most cinematic group in the history of rock 'n' roll, certainly in relation to their brief, explosive lifespan. Julien Temple has already tilled this furrow in the splattershot cartoonery of the wonderful "The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle", Lech Kowalski's "D.O.A." covered their 'experience' of America, whilst in the appallingly bad "Sid And Nancy" Alex Cox vaguely fictionalised its protagonists' squalid downfall for the MTV generation, notable chiefly for an early glimpse of Courtney Love. Now Temple has returned to bookend the Sex Pistols story with his own factual documentation of events.
The cover notes boast that "The Filth And The Fury" was "culled primarily from the band's own 20 hour plus archive of never before seen footage", something that Temple's commentary immediately gives the lie to: apparently there was little useable material in this supposed treasure trove, and much of "The Filth And The Fury" will be familiar, down to the recycling of footage from "The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle". But there is much that is revelatory as well: Temple attempts to place the band's ascendancy in the political and social context of the mid-70s, a forgotten era evoked by careful clippings from the hours of television adverts and news footage he preserved on home video at the time. There's a snippet from the Pistols own abandoned feature film "Who Killed Bambi?", featuring a preposterously young-looking Sting. Candid interviews with Sid Vicious on the subject of his heroin addiction and Malcolm McLaren's management strategy make riveting viewing, as do the conversations with the surviving band members, tellingly filmed in silhouette, including the famous scene in which John Lydon apparently breaks down whilst blaming McLaren for Vicious' downfall. On the other hand the power of the performance footage is frequently sapped by Temple's frustrating habit of splicing concert visuals with studio-recorded soundtracks.
As possibly the last word on the Sex Pistol story and social document "The Filth And The Fury" fully justifies its existence. In terms of riotous, dazzling entertainment you'd be better advised to seek out "The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle" (actually Temple's final year project at university, we learn here), even though it might not be the whole truth and nothing but.