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Sid and Nancy (1986. 1 hr, 53 min 21 sec), is a biographical drama, directed by Alex Cox (Repo Man (1984), Bill the Galactic Hero (2014)), who co-wrote the screenplay with Abbe Wool. The film sets out to depict the self-destructive relationship between Sid Vicious, best known as the bassist with the Sex Pistols and Nancy Spungen, probably best known for probably being knifed to death by Sid.
The film opens with Sid sitting on the bed, knife in hand as the police arrive. Later on, Sid, looking lost, is asked where he first met Nancy, “at Linda’s” and so we are back in 1977, when Sid replaced Glen Matlock as the band's bassist. Arriving at Linda’s Sid first encounters Nancy, but it is a further meeting, when Sid tries to get Nancy to buy him heroin, that their relationship really starts. Sid in real life had already had a long drugs career, fuelled by his mother giving him drugs. Soon the two are a couple joined through their nihilism and drug fuelled chaos.
The film follows Sid as he joins The Pistols's disastrous American tour, as a full time drug addict, without Nancy and without the musical ability the band needed. The tour would see the dissolution of the band and the start of his short and temporary solo career. The film finishes with a fictionalised version of what happened in their apartment that night when Nancy died of a single stab wound. Following his release from custody Sid died of a heroin overdose.
This was Gary Oldman’s first film and so his portrayal is bereft of any fame baggage. As such he had much to prove and very little to lose. Oldman throws himself into the roll, heart and soul; he is all spitting venom and ludicrous behaviour, concerned about the mess they are making of his mum's flat, but happy to hit Nancy in the mouth when she doesn’t help. Nancy is played by Chloe Webb as the epitome of self-destruction, hungry for fame and willing to do anything to get it, the sort of person any sane person would run a mile from. She uses Sid to keep her position, keeping her close to the fame, but even those around him can see she is a malign influence, inflating Sid’s ego. Untimely she is banned from their American tour, but even an ocean cannot keep the two co-dependant junkies apart.
Overall, it’s a good film although there were some elements which didn’t quite work, including Andrew Schofield’s take on John Lydon (Johnny Rotten). Now he could have played this any way he liked, Lydon as icon, as an idea, even Lydon, when he knew who was going to play him, suggested that Schofield play him with his own native Liverpool accent. Instead he went for a rotten and unsuccessful imitation. On the plus side he injects a suitable level of power and energy into his musical numbers.
The print shows a lot of grain, more than can be explained by it being taken from a film negative. There is one section where Sid arrives at a party only to accidentally fall through a glass door in, what looks like, a snow storm. This is probably the worse example in what is generally a grainy film. That said, for the most part the grain is unobtrusive and doesn’t spoil the film, especially during some of the memorable scenes, like Gary Oldman going all Sid singing 'My Way'.
As well as the main cast there are a number of others to look out for, including Edward Tudor-Pole, Kathy Burke, Courtney Love and a blink and you’ll miss it, Iggy Pop.
The disc has three extras, all interviews. Alex Cox (23 min, 02 sec) talks about how his own punk sensibilities drew him to the story and how he sought out people who were part of the London movement prior to writing the screenplay. Roger Deakins (9 min, 07 sec) talks about the cinematography of the film. Lastly, Don Letts (9 min, 47 sec) is a contemporary musician and film maker, who formed a band with the Clash’s Mick Jones, Big Audio Dynamite, who speaks about the time.
So, the film is not exactly a biopic, more of a slice of seedy pie, a snapshot of a time and the tragic consequences of a life with no inhibitions.
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