Let me just say it: The Sex Pistols suck and they have always sucked! I have *tried*, really really tried, to enjoy or at the very least appreciate their music, but I simply cannot. They themselves admit in the Julien Temple’s rockumentary The Filth & the Fury that they didn’t know how to play the instruments or carry a tune. I believe the band’s appeal comes from the punk culture they helped create and their anti-establishment attitude toward England’s domestic policies at the time. The Sex Pistols was created by that time period and it ended with it, which provides further reason why its difficult for me to relate to anything about them. However, aside from all this criticism, The Filth & the Fury is a decently informative documentary that gives the viewer a nice history lesson on the band, the origins of the punk movement, and the infamous relationship between Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen (which was turned into a famous movie that put Gary Oldman on the map).

I’m not a huge fan of the popular trend in the late 90s and early part of this decade where directors began shooting their films (mainly independent low-budget features) on digital video. High Def video had not yet reached a stage where you didn’t feel like you were watching someone’s home video recorded on a camcorder. The Filth & the Fury uses a combination of video and archival footage. Now although I don’t generally mind watching a documentary, especially a music documentary directed by someone known for making music *videos,* I couldn’t help but compare its aesthetic qualities to the recently watched Gimme Shelter. The latter film was shot on film and because of it, the doc not only feels like a real movie, but it perpetuates the rock star image and legend of The Rolling Stones. Thats just me and obviously some filmmakers would disagree with me (George Lucas and Michael Mann).

One obviously stylistic choice the director decided to use that I disagreed with was to not show the faces of the band members as they were being interviewed for this film. That didn’t make any sense to me because you obviously know who they are because their names are identified. I felt this was an annoying and self-indulgent technique that was totally unnecessary.

Rock bands have a reputation for leading balls to the wall insane lives that involves a lot of drugs and alcohol. Some of these bands survive, many do not. It was obvious The Sex Pistols would not last long and its a miracle they even lasted as long as they did, which was only a few short years. Watching the film, you can’t help but be in awe of how crazy and recklessly this band lived and how they never managed to get killed. Based on what we see, with the exception of a children’s benefit concert that the band threw, there doesn’t appear to be a single moment where the band doesn’t act up and get retarded.

Its interesting to listen to the tensions between the band members, especially between Johnny Rotten and Malcolm McLaren. Inner band turmoil is par for any rock band and this was no exception for The Sex Pistols. Probably the most interesting portion of the documentary is the interview with Sid Vicious, a latecomer to the band and a close friend of Johnny Rotten. Its clear this young man, who died of a drug overdose, was clearly troubled. You also get a sense that Vicious’ and the rest of the band’s issues with the government’s policies were not aimed at producing a better system or society. I don’t think they were informed enough to even know what the problems were. They just simply wanted chaos and the absolute freedom for everyone to do whatever the fuck they wanted.

The Filth & the Fury is an interesting documentary and for those who like music history or who are curious about the punk movement and the bands associated with it, this is a good film to watch. I would not rank it among the best music documentaries out there, but it is a decent effort and it rises above many of the current crop of music documentaries.

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