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Saturday, 8 April, 2000, 07:49 GMT 08:49 UK
Sex Pistols' furious return
Sex Pistols and Bill Grundy
The band made headlines after their infamous interview with Bill Grundy
From BBC News Online Entertainment Correspondent Tom Brook

The Sex Pistols, the raucous punk rock band which shocked the UK in the late 1970s, are enjoying a renaissance in America thanks to The Filth and The Fury, a new documentary from British film-maker Julien Temple which is winning rave reviews.

At their zenith, the band - with their anti-establishment anthems Anarchy In The UK and God Save The Queen - became a rallying point for the disaffected.

Sid Vicious
Sid Vicious died from a heroin overdose

They lasted a mere 26 months, during which they recorded one album and four singles. But, as the documentary makes vivid, their impact on the music business and pop culture was immense.

Temple says: "I think the core message about the Sex Pistols was the defence of being an individual and thinking totally for yourself, questioning everything that was said to you and responding as human beings, rather than morons."

Grungy melancholy

The Filth and The Fury looks back at the Sex Pistols through never-seen-before footage of them performing, interwoven with video clips of TV programmes and advertisements from the era, as well as interviews with the original band members.

A particularly poignant moment is an interview with a surprisingly articulate Sid Vicious conducted in London's Hyde Park before his subsequent death from a heroin overdose.

Julien Temple also cannibalised his original 1980 Sex Pistols film, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, and used material from that to build fresh sequences in the new film.

Sid Vicious
The movie contains exclusive unseen footage

The documentary has a grungy, melancholic feel, partly because the interviews with living band members are conducted in silhouette.

But we hear their voices loud and clear, chronicling the group's rise and eventual crucifixion by the music industry and tabloid press.

The film is driven chronologically but it feels very different from the standard documentary.

Temple says that the faces of the band members were not illuminated during interviews because "no one should suffer wrinkly rock stars in armchairs ever again, you know - the most disgusting torture known to man".

But adds it takes viewers "back in time," suggesting that he wanted to immerse them totally in images of the time with no contemporary distractions.

In contrast to Temple's 1980 film this new documentary purports to be the truth of the Sex Pistols' own story, as opposed to the one espoused by their manager, Malcolm McLaren, who The Filth and The Fury depicts as a villainous figure inside an inflated S&M bondage mask.

Surprisngly fresh

In their day the Sex Pistols appeared as social aggressors who refused to play the game, but the film paints a more humane picture of four confused but bright young men who just wanted to make mischief and have fun.

Their antics still seem disturbing and offensive, but what remains startlingly fresh is their music and their look.

Johnny Rotten
Johnny Rotten excelled in spitting out the band's vitriol

In contrast to the video images of other 1970s icons who surround them in this film, the Sex Pistols look decidedly modern and everyone else looks like a relic from a bygone age.

The release of the documentary has shown that time has not dulled the Sex Pistols' desire to defy those who seek to control them.

John Lydon - formerly Johnny Rotten - reportedly refused to cooperate with efforts by the film's American distributors to promote The Filth and The Fury because he felt they weren't doing enough.

Instead, he mounted his own guerrilla publicity campaign.

The band's reign was brief but they were rarely out of the news
But by all accounts he, and other living band members, are happy with this cinematic rendering of their lives.

It's not easy to assess the Sex Pistols' cultural legacy and Julien Temple may overstate the case at times.

But there's no denying that he, and his editor Niven Howie, have put together a vital film which more than anything else illuminates British social history at a crucial time, during the days just prior to the rise of Thatcherism.

The Filth and The Fury opens in the UK in May.

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See also:

28 Sep 98 | Entertainment
Shooting the Sex Pistols
16 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Punk godfather joins mayor race
10 Feb 00 | UK Politics
McLaren's web of wonder
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