As a non-fan of the Sex Pistols — if I’m in the mood for pioneer punk-rock bands, I prefer the Ramones — I’m probably not the best one to assess the quality of “The Filth and the Fury” as a documentary on that band. I never had any questions about them in the first place, so whether or not the film answers any is a moot point.
I can speak to the entertainment value of it, though, which is considerable. Director Julien Temple shoots modern-day interviews with band members in silhouette, like they’re witnesses to the mayhem they caused and wish to remain anonymous. The clips of the Pistols’ public antics are plentiful, including the infamous and delightfully profane “Today” appearance with a drunken host.
There are some interesting tidbits, too. Ringleader Johnny Rotten (born John Lydon) had menengitis at age 7 that sent him into a coma, and when he awoke, he had no memory of the first seven years of his life. (Small wonder he turned out so dreadful after that.) His nickname came from a fight with a journalist in which he allegedly used a chain as a weapon. Everyone hated Malcolm McLaren, the manager — well, I guess fans already knew that, but I didn’t.
From a historical standpoint, the Pistols were undeniably a landmark band. The disillusionment of the British working class in the mid-’70s caused a lot of unrest and rebellion, and the Sex Pistols — and the myriad bands who followed in their footsteps — were the musical result. The documentary doesn’t ignore the group’s significance, nor does it overstate it. It tells the lively, interesting story in a fairly straight-forward manner, allowing the strangeness of the facts to keep a viewer’s attention.
B (; )