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A documentary about the punk band The Sex Pistols. The film tries to lighten some of the backgrounds of their way through the punk era while telling the story of the band from zero back to zero. Features lots of interviews and comments of folks who were involved. Written by
If nothing else, this is the only Sex Pistols film (there are now at least 3) to make explicit and in-depth reference to the band members' working class roots, and the way that experience informed their project. This alone makes the film worth seeing, as it explodes the myth, fostered no doubt by their PT Barnum manager, Malcolm McLaren, that the whole project was an exercise in cynical nihilism and money grubbing. As the band members tell it, nothing could have been further from the truth. I believe them.
The film is cobbled together in large part from 2 previous Sex Pistols documentaries, "Rock 'n' Roll Swindle," (a McLaren project also directed, ironically enough, by F&F director Julie Temple) and "D.O.A," plus clips from BBS television and elsewhere that try to locate the Pistols in the political and social climate that spawned them. This effort, to give the Pistols a historical context, is by far the most valuable part of the film for those trying to understand how a bunch of working class stiffs, who could barely play their instruments, and who only released one album, could set off an explosion that reverberates in the music world--if increasingly faintly--even today.
Best part of the film: footage from their last, secret gig at a palace in a working class district (they had been banned from appearing anywhere in England) before embarking on their ill-fated US tour. It consists of two performance on Christmas Day, benefiting the families of striking local firefighters, who had been out of work for many months. The attendees consist of the local lads and lasses, none of whom are "punk" in any apparent sense of the term.
Before the Pistols performed, everyone eats Sex Pistols cake and ice cream; "Never Mind the Bollocks" shirts are stretched over the pubescent bodies of every bobby soxer. Then, after a thank you from the emcee, the Pistols launch into the searing "Bodies," its sarcastic refrain sung from the point of view of an aborted fetus ("I'm not an animal!/I'm an abortion..."). All the boppers dance like it's a sock hop, with the difference that everyone gleefully throws leftover desserts at one another. Steve Jones is shown playing guitar with his face covered in cake icing, beaming. In his reminiscence about the gig, Rotten grows wistful, saying it was easily their best memory as a band, and the last good one before it all fell apart.
I never knew the guys were such sentimentalists.
It's hard to believe that there once was a time when rock music could actually matter, when it was possible to actually escape the commodified rebellion that now sells Budweiser, Nike, and SUVs, when it was possible, however briefly to scare the pants of the political establishment. Young pop music lovers who swallow the meretricious rebellion of rap or grunge--whose self-important lyrics and idiotically monotonous rhythms make their authors rich off the weekly allowances of white middle class kids whose idea of rebellion is big loud subwoofers in the Corolla Daddy bought them for their 16th birthday--might profit from getting a glimpse of the Real Thing.
The rest of us, who were lucky enough to have been there when history was made, and who can still recall the opening chords of "Anarchy in the UK" blasting all traces of "More Than a Feeling" and "Take It Easy" out of our speakers cabinets and into the first circle of music Hell where they always belonged, can enjoy the film for what it teaches us about the power of ordinary, thoroughly obnoxious people to make their own history, and ours.
Another thing I learned from the film: if Tom Cruise were a junkie, he would look just like Sid Vicious.
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