A scene from 'The Filth & the Fury'
Courtesy Photo
** stars 105 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, April 28, 2000 (SF)
Directed by Julian Temple

Featuring Johnny Rotten, Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock & Sid Vicious


The only thing that will be lost to video is urge to do the pogo during Pistols songs cranked up on a theater sound system.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 10/10/2000

 LINKS for this film
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Repetitive 'Fury' takes another look at the granddaddies of punk

By Rob Blackwelder

For about an hour, "The Filth and the Fury" -- the Sex Pistols new self-indulgent, slash-and-burn documentary -- is a fascinating patchwork of interviews, lost concert footage, 90-mile-per-hour biographical data and body slams directed at record companies and managers (OK, Macolm McLaren) that the band feels screwed them during their 18-month existence.

There's a found interview with a very baked and dimwitted, 19-year-old Sid Vicious. There's grinning anecdotes about Steve Jones' kleptomania -- which came in handy in the early days when the band needed equipment. There's John Lydon/Johnny Rotten -- ever the misanthropic showman -- interviewed in back-lit, witness protection style, narrating most of the movie with his don't-give-a-dam insights.

But "The Filth and the Fury" -- essentially Julien Temple's update of 1980's "The Great Rock and Roll Swindle," but from the band's point of view -- isn't much more than a vanity piece in which the Pistols take pride in their scabs. Soon after that irreverent, fun and anarchistic first hour is over, the film becomes repetitive, excessive and bitter, with Lydon winging on about his venom for McLaren, the band's manager, and Nancy Spungen, Vicious' drug-addled girlfriend. "I introduced her to Sid, and shame on me!"

The doc is at its most interesting while tracing the seeds of the punk movement and the seeds of the band itself. Outside of that it mostly rehashes that which Sex Pistols fans already know -- the anarchy, the drugs, the raw energy of their music and the safety pins were never a front or a gimmick. What you saw was what you got with these guys and they have no regrets, save one: "I could take on England, but I couldn't take on one heroin addict," Rotten says in remembrance of Vicious.

Temple's chaotic editing -- he includes retroactively funny footage of record label wonks trying to explain the Pistols, a morning television interview gone awry, stuffy conservatives calling the band "a bigger threat than communism" -- keeps the energy level up. But the patchwork of concerts (featuring the same four songs over and over), scenes from Lawrence Olivier's "Richard III" (apparently a punk icon), news clippings and old and new interviews ads little to the already larger-than-life legend.

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