Starring: John Lydon, Sid Vicious, Steve Jones, Paul Cook
Director: Julien Temple
Distributor: Magna Pacific
British director Julien Temple has a knack for tapping into enduring musical trends. When he was a film school student back in 1976 he snaffled a camera and started shooting footage of bands like ‘The Clash’ and ‘The Sex Pistols’. His inspiring current release on the front man of the former, Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, uses a lot of dynamic imagery from those early days, as did his 1980 graduate film The Great Rock ‘n Roll Swindle which told the phenomenal story of the Sex Pistols from the point of view of their kooky manager Malcolm McLaren.
Twenty years on Temple revisited some of that early footage and packaged it up in a new format that focused on the band members. Their perspective on those brief two years that changed the sound of music forever makes for some riveting viewing. Sitting centre stage is John Lydon AKA Johnny Rotten, silhouetted against back lighting to obscure the ravages of time. The same anonymity is granted to the other members as they delve back into their memories and attempt to set the record straight.
In the earlier film McLaren called the Pistols his “little artful Dodgers”. Here he is revealed in a different light wearing a full face rubber mask which an assistant pumps full of air while he rambles on. He’s demonstrating merchandise from the Chelsea Road ‘Sex’ shop that provided the Pistols and their fans with their distinctive fashion statements.
Temple refers to them as “a new mutant strain of human being” and juxtaposes them with clips from Laurence Olivier’s hunch backed Richard III. He also uses kitsch animated dinosaur movies and television commercials from the time to place his protagonists in context. If you want to understand the roots of punk then this is essential viewing.