New Line Home Cinema presents
The Filth and the Fury (2000)
"You can't create me! I am me!"- Johnny Rotten
Stars: Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock, Sid Vicious
Other Stars: Malcolm McLaren
Director: Julien Temple
MPAA Rating: R for Language, Nudity, Violence
Run Time: 01h:43m:00s
Release Date: 2000-10-10
DVD ReviewWhen the Sex Pistols broke up in 1978, after a mere twenty-six months together, I was only ten years old. In fact, I had never even heard a note of their music until I went to college. I have enjoyed their very limited catalog of songs ever since, but this documentary was my first real glimpse into the band itself, from its formation to its inevitable demise.
This is Julien Temple's second Sex Pistols documentary, the first being 1980's The Great Rock and Roll Swindle. This first attempt was nothing more than another money-making scheme by the Pistols' former manager, Malcolm McLaren. It painted the group as simply one of Malcolm's creations and downplays their significance in punk history. With The Filth and the Fury, Temple allows the surviving band members to tell their own story and it plays out as much more interesting.
The Sex Pistols weren't the first punk band—The M.C. Five, The Stooges and The New York Dolls all beat them to it. They weren't the best either—The Clash could play circles around them on their worst day. So what is it about this group that makes them so interesting? I think it's a combination of two things: that they were so much a product of their environment and that they are the true definition of punk.
To really understand the mystique of the Sex Pistols, one must understand England in the mid-seventies and this movie does as good a job of that as possible. I could never fully understand what it was like to be a middle- or lower-class young person in London in 1975, nor would I want to. Unemployment was through the roof, the streets were littered due to a garbage strike and protestors were routinely beaten by cops while the lives of the upper class continued as they always had. The Sex Pistols couldn't have formed in any other environment. Sure, there have been other punk bands since them, but none were rooted in the true anarchy that the Pistols were.
The band originally consisted of Steve Jones on guitar and Paul Cook on drums. Glen Matlock was brought in to play bass, but they needed a singer. They found exactly what they were looking for in Johnny Rotten, a grotesque looking man with a voice to match. Under the direction of their manager, McLaren, the band began to play clubs and put out singles. They also managed to piss off just about everyone, which was their intention.
This documentary shows the band in various live performances, although the music unfortunately is taken from their studio recordings. The surviving members of the band narrate over much of the footage and are intermittently shown in shadow, possibly to prevent us from seeing how age can take the edge off of even the truest punk. Temple also uses footage from British television of the time and quite a bit of footage from Shakespeare's Richard III. All of the splicing is handled quite well and never distracts.
It was amazing to me to see just what kind of upheaval the band actually caused. They were banned from playing many towns and arenas and, at one point, there is an interview with a town leader who actually says that the world would be a better place if the members of the Sex Pistols would die. There is also footage of a live television appearance the band made which unavoidably turned into a fiasco.
The movie comes to a close as Sid Vicious joins the band following the firing of Glen Matlock. Sid had always been a fan of the band and was a long time friend of Rotten's, but admittedly "couldn't play a note." The documentary tells of their first and only tour of the U.S., where Sid became more and more addicted to heroin; this is where the band began to break apart. The fans were less and less interested in the punk cause and more interested in dressing up.
Two of the most emotional parts of the film for me concern Sid Vicious. One is a conversation with Sid where he talks about how hard it is to be addicted to heroin. One can see just how young and vulnerable this kid was. The other is when Johhny tells of his remorse for Sid's death and how he wishes he could have done more to help him.
This is just a great documentary that covers everything it needs to in an interesting way and with lots of great music to boot. All of the band members provide interesting commentary and the director puts it all together in a very interesting package.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A
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Image Transfer Review: This is a really tough disc to review for image quality. There are so many different sources used to create the documentary and they all have differing degrees of quality. Overall though, I would say the picture was quite good. There was some edge enhancement visible and much of the footage was grainy, but the colors were pretty good. Honestly, this is not the kind of disc where one would or should nitpick the quality of the video. Any flaws in the video certainly do not distract at all from the viewing experience.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: While I wouldn't rank the sound on this disc up there with some of the better sounding DVDs, I will say that the Sex Pistols music has never sounded so good. The source material on much of this documentary is obviously lacking in quality, but I feel that New Line has done a good job. The narration is also intelligible, although the subtitles were necessary in some cases due to the strong British accents of the members of the band.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 20 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Julien Temple
Extras Review: When I first saw the listing of extras for this disc, I was extremely excited. While there are only two real extras, they both seemed like they would be very interesting. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed with both of them.
The documentary, Undefining Punk, consisted of interviews with musicians and writers commenting on the punk movement. The main problem was that there were way too many people involved and I quickly lost track of who was who and then lost interest altogether. I was expecting something more along the lines of a documentary discussing the origins of punk and the parties involved; but what I actually got were a bunch of disjointed philosophies from many people who I did not know and whose opinions mattered little to me.
Second is the commentary by director Julien Temple. He is obviously a man who knows the Sex Pistols and this documentary is very personal for him. The problem with the commentary track was quite simply his presentation. Just because someone can do wonders on film doesn't mean they will be interesting to listen to. I kind of feel bad for him as I'm sure he had lots of interesting things to convey to us. But his presentation was just so emotionless and, frankly, boring that I quickly lost interest and mentally tuned it out.
The one highlight of all the extras on the disc was the original theatrical trailer. I was very impressed with it and I can honestly say that it is one of the most interesting trailers I have ever seen.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsA fabulous documentary about one of the most important rock bands of all time. This disc is a must for any Sex Pistols fan, or any real music fan for that matter. While the documentary and commentary track were a bit disappointing to me, I would still recommend it.
Brian Cook 2000-10-12