The punk rock group known as the Sex Pistols cared more about chaos than
their music, according to one of the many interviewees in Julien
Temple's documentary about their lives. Called THE FILTH AND THE FURY,
the film has a highly limited appeal. For fans of the group or of the
group's more outlandish members, like Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten, the
movie will certainly be a must-see picture. But for others, the movie
might better be thought of as THE OBNOXIOUS AND THE REPETITIVE. A more
insightful film with a universal appeal, Doug Pray's HYPE! about
Seattle's grunge rock movement covers similarly outlandish groups but
does it with more insight and interest.
THE FILTH AND THE FURY starts off quite promisingly, crediting the
social unrest in Britain in the mid-1970s as the group's genesis.
Citing the misconception that "everyone" was on the dole, the story
suggests that the band was formed by working-class youths as a protest
against unemployment and conformity. The latter has a wonderful irony
since soon everyone was wearing the same torn clothes to protest against
conformity. With wonderful bits of archival film footage, this brief
segment is fascinating.
If painters can become famous by randomly throwing bits of paint at a
canvas, why shouldn't a band become a hit solely on the strength of
their foul behavior on the stage and in public? Who cares what they
sound like? People watch them, intrigued by what ridiculous thing they
will do next. It's a formula that radio schlock jock Howard Stern has
used to great success.
The Sex Pistols spit on their fans, who can't get enough of the bad
boys' antics. "Spit on us again; we love it," they appear to say.
After making these points and variations on them, the documentary gets
stuck like an old record player. Running out of things to say, it
interviews the band members -- except for Sid, who died in a heroin
overdose -- again and again to get their opinions on the band and it's
popularity. Their fans loved the band with their anti-establishment
rhetoric in songs such as "I Am An Anti-Christ" and "God Save The Queen:
She's No Human Being." We get to see, or have to see, depending on your
point of view, lots of concert footage.
One of the band members best summed up their popularity. The group was
"a bit like a Harold Pinter play," he explains. "It shouldn't work, but
THE FILTH AND THE FURY runs 1:48. It is rated R for pervasive strong
language, drugs and sexual content and would be acceptable only for high
school seniors and older.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes