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NewCityNet Furiously Filthy

By Dave Chamberlain

APRIL 10, 2000:  To think I walked into the screening room with dread over hearing the Sex Pistols' songs, those which I've heard so very many times before, for a running time of 105 minutes.

But no matter how over the Sex Pistols you are, no matter if you've never heard a single song, no matter if you've haven't even a notion of who they are, the Sundance award-winning documentary, "The Filth and the Fury," is an engaging, clever and even touching revisionist history of the band that broke punk rock.

For director Julien Temple, "The Filth and the Fury" is a twenty-years-later rebuttal to another film, "The Great Rock and Roll Swindle," which, coincidentally, he also directed. While the latter was told from the side of the Sex Pistols' manager (and self-proclaimed band architect), Malcom McLaren, the former comes from the mouths of outrage themselves: Rotten, Matlock, Jones, Cook and, in retrospect, Vicious. (Because Temple also conducts a lengthy interview with Vicious -- shortly before his death -- in 1978, perhaps "The Filth and the Fury" completes his personal trilogy.)

Weaving together film culled from the Pistols' personal collection (no shit, you really haven't seen any of this, no matter how hardcore a fan you are) with recent interviews with all the band members (including Matlock), and clips from BBC television appearances, Temple constructs a bridge that leads from a young Johnny Lydon's (Rotten's) meningitis to band tryouts to Vicious' heroin overdose. The resulting story -- and the film feels more narrative than documentary -- set against the backdrop of economically depressed England and a fear-laden political atmosphere, is eye, ear and brain candy for historians and rockophiles alike.

There is live footage of the band playing in front of a roomful of future stars, songs that are only available from bootleg recordings, and even the most unlikely of contradictions (specifically: the Pistols appearing at a benefit concert for children of striking firemen, cutting cake and playing with the tots, then taking the stage and playing their abortion song, "Bodies"). If you like the band, the songs will sound fresher than they have in years; if you're unfamiliar, this is about the most entertaining way to find out what all the fuss was about.


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