Sid and Nancy, 1986.
Directed by Alex Cox.
Starring Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, David Hayman, Debby Bishop, Andrew Schofield, Courtney Love, Perry Benson and Tony London.
A new 30th anniversary restoration of the cult biopic portraying the life, relationship and deaths of punk rocker Sid Vicious and partner Nancy Spungen.
An entertaining, if shambolic, look at the brief lives of Sex Pistols bass guitarist Sid Vicious and partner Nancy Spungen, this restoration celebrates 30 years since the film came out in 1986.
By most accounts from those around at the time, there wasn’t that much to like about Vicious and Spungen. They lived a form of chaotic co-dependency, existing on the margins, blotting out feelings in a drug haze of nihilistic abandon. Cox’s film clearly romanticises the facts, with some of the more unpleasant characteristics of junky hell late 70’s London probably ironed out considerably. The idea that the two were completely besotted with each other is perhaps stretching it, and it may well have been that no body else would put up with them.
In any case, the two central performances from Gary Oldman (clearly enjoying himself, laying on a thicker than thick impression, both funny and sympathetic in its portrayal) and Chloe Webb (believably capturing the spoiled, self-destructive Nancy) are lively enough, bringing out a darkly humorous take on the story. A more straight documentary style view may have been a more balanced approach to take, but the fact is it could have turned out so unfailingly bleak that few would be brave enough to sit through it.
As it is, the film does a reasonable enough job in visualising an account of the three key events in the story.
In 1977 Sid Vicious, the Pistols new bassist and Johnny Rotten (Andrew Schofield) meet the heroin addicted groupie Nancy. She introduces Vicious to the drug and the two begin a wayward romance. A year later, The Pistols catastrophic American tour of early 1978 leads to the band falling apart and Vicious beginning a solo career with Spungen as manager. The third event is Spungen’s death in late 1978. Vicious, cleared of murder charges, kills himself just months later.
As others have quite rightly commented, there doesn’t seem to be too much ‘punk’ about a restored Blu-ray edition of this particular film. It may be better to keep those semi-impaired memories of watching it on a battered old VHS with a can of cider, rather than viewing it as some sort of era-defining masterpiece. At its best, it’s a funny and odd slice of folk history. At its worst, it’s a hungover breakfast pint down the Dog and Duck.
Special Features on the DVD and Blu-ray Special Editions:
An important feature of this release for any would-be punk historian is trying to place the film in context. Even by 1986, ‘punk’ culture – in Britain at least – had lost most of its original impetus and had taken on the mohican and safety pin cliches of postcard posing actors. In the LA of 1986, where Cox was largely based and where most of his experiences with punk music was formed, the DIY style of art creation was still a powerful and thriving force. This ethos is strong in his work and the anything goes attitude is both the best and worst thing on show here. The interviews go someway to explaining the appeal of punk – and also why it is so bloody difficult to capture on screen.
- New interview with Cinematographer Roger Deakins
- New interview with Director Alex Cox
- New interview with Don Letts (Director, DJ and presenter of ‘Punk on Film’ at the BFI: Southbank)
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk
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