The Filth and The Fury tells the story of the Sex Pistols. That tornado fire of a band that shook up the music world more than any other band in the thirty years of rock ‘n’ roll that had preceded them. The story is a revision of what went on at that time, correcting some misconceptions and to reveal some previously untold feelings.One of the reasons you go to the cinema to see a film as opposed to video is the atmosphere of the theatre and audience. This screening of The Filth and The Fury had the sound of a rowdy audience and the smell of plastic cupped cheap alcohol. There was more studded leather on display than a Thursday night at the Hellfire Club and they were all in the mood for some punk. The amusingly brief introductory speech by the director of the film - a rather jet-lagged Julien Temple - just got the audience more worked up as we sat down to see The Filth and The Fury.
The timing and setting was right in the UK for punk to happen. The film starts with the economic and social climate of the UK in the mid-1970s. In short, it was a mess. There was social unrest with union strikes and demonstrations such as the garbage strike where rubbish bags were piling up in the streets. What’s worse, light entertainment was taking over TV. The post hippie come down was hitting hard. It was time to cease ignoring what was wrong with the world and get agitated. As Johnny Rotten says, "It was time to move the garbage."
Temple’s film gives us the reason punk needed to happen, to discount the fabrication in the film The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle and to reveal the feelings of the band at the time.
Malcolm McLaren (and anyone who listens to him) will tell you that the Sex Pistols and punk rock were a completely manufactured and artificial creation masterminded by McLaren purely to make money. The Great Rock n Roll Swindle details this process and says that The Sex Pistols were as prefabricated as The Spice Girls or Bardot.
The Filth and The Fury on the other hand informs us that that couldn’t be further from the truth. McLaren - not interviewed for the project - is portrayed as a clueless fool who was in way over his head. That he just tagged along for the ride and once it was over tried to claim that it was all his idea.
The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle - a film also directed by Temple - was designed to annoy fans. It was to fool the fans so they would not feel so precious about the band. Temple wanted to make a second film to show the band’s point of view. It is a more credible view and anyway if you believe McLaren’s view of events you believe the view of a self-confessed manipulator and exploiter. Not a particularly believable kind of guy our Malcolm.
Revealing what the band members felt at the time is the most interesting aspect of the film and is also the most moving. The detailing of the attempt to help Sid Vicious has Lydon and us holding back tears. An interview of Sid Vicious before he died is haunting as he reveals the hell of heroin addiction and suicidal wishes. Nancy Spungen doesn’t come out too good in this film - what is it about rock star girlfriends?
The USA wasn’t in the same condition as the UK and probably weren’t ready for punk. Which is probably why the US provided a catalyst for the band to break up. The Americans would have to wait until the 90s with a band telling the kids to, "Bring your friends it’s fun to lose and to pretend."The Filth and The Fury is just as engrossing as any fictional film. The music is great of course and the revealing of the feelings of the band at the time gives you extra understanding of the music and the times in which they lived.