I had the rare privilege of spending some time last week with film director Julien Temple before, during and just after hosting a Q&A with him for Purbeck Film Festival at the atmospheric Rex cinema in Wareham.
He was amiably polite chatting in the bar before, animated and engaging in conversation on stage and just a bit rumbustious afterwards as he bid a shouty farewell to an audience largely made up of former punks of a certain age then bounded out of the theatre to catch a train back to London.
What brought him to Wareham was a screening of The Filth and the Fury, the documentary he made with the Sex Pistols in 2000 as a response to his own 1978 feature The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle. A prior engagement – some say he had an appointment with Mick Jagger no less in relation to an upcoming film about Cuba – meant he couldn’t stay to see the film with us, but his anecdotes about making it and about the people featured in it provided illuminating and frequently funny context for it, a classic ‘peak behind the curtain’.
His favourite Pistol was and still is ‘Jonesy’; Lydon’s teary, beery remembrance of Sid in the film came about after an all-day session on the Red Stripe and Keith Richards may or may not continue to rule the Stones’ roost with a working swordstick!
Watching the film after its director had left I was reminded why I’ve only ever seen it the once. For all the fun, folics and jolly larks along the way there’s no escaping the story’s thoroughly bleak ending – as Lydon says, the Pistols finished at the right time for the wrong reasons. What it must be like for those that survived to see stupid, silly, easily led astray Sid again we can only imagine.
As a snapshot of its time The Filth and the Fury is equalled by Temple’s elegy to The Clash, Westway to the World and surpassed by The Future Is Unwritten, his heartfelt tribute to his old running mate Joe Strummer. They’re films about our youth, about a time when anything felt possible, when being young felt like a revolutionary act in and of itself.
Julien Temple played his part in that great adventure and now enjoys a rare position from which to remind us of what it felt like. Top bloke. Never thought I’d see him in the Rex though!