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The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1980)

The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle

Director:Julien Temple
Cast:Malcolm McLaren, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten
Genre:Film, Cult, Musical

By Andy Markowitz | Posted

Julien Temple's 2000 documentary The Filth and the Fury told the Sex Pistols' story more truthfully--OK, much more truthfully--but for sheer left-handed panache, check out his spurious first crack at the nut. Released (barely) in 1980, Swindle is the gospel according to Malcolm McLaren, the Pistols' founder and manager, who posits the group as a mere vehicle for his master plan to expose the rock 'n' roll industry as a corrupt, bloated fraud by selling it on a band of talentless provocateurs. It's a pretty tall tale (as a live clip of the Pistols marauding through "Anarchy in the U.K." makes clear), but McLaren is so impishly winning--and so cynically trenchant about the state of the biz--that he almost puts it over. Meanwhile, Temple stuffs the film with brutally satiric asides, cheekily profane animations, and cheerily outrageous production numbers (including Sid Vicious' prescient and oddly poignant destruction of "My Way"). Amid the chaos and conceit, he manages to pinpoint the space the Sex Pistols crawled into--and evoke the manner in which they exploded it. Bonus: Disco and strolling-French-minstrel versions of "Anarchy."

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