The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle Movie Review

Malcolm McLaren is a dirty sot. He wants it that way, his public life - as far as he sees it - was nothing more than a street performance, a theatre of the absurd for the jaded masses. As manager of the decisive (and many argue, last) punk band, the Sex Pistols, McLaren took the envelope and literally kicked it out the window. And here, in an outlandish collage by film student Julian Temple, he foists upon the audience the novel idea that the whole Sex Pistols "scene" was a ruse, a scam, a swindle, to make a ton of dough. McLaren asserts that he ran the show and that the Pistols were a bunch of talentless losers. Now that's punk, baby!

Ah, but McLaren is lying through his teeth when he tells us that. In The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle the line between documentary and fiction, truth and lie, becomes so blurred that it becomes unnecessary.

The "plot" consists of McLaren tooting his horn, the Sex Pistols performing, music videos flashing, bizarre animation segments gnashing, midgets thrashing, and Ronnie Biggs (the infamous British train robber who pulled off the Great Train Robbery in 1963) talking. It's a delirious hodge-podge that makes The Filth and the Fury, Temple's later "documentary" about the band, look perfectly staid. It ends with Sid Vicious in Paris singing Sinatra's "My Way" and then shooting the audience.

The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle attempts to translate punk to film, it's trying to fit a movement into a bottle. And in many ways it succeeds admirably, mostly because it fails. That sounds like a load of Post-Modernism 101 bullshit, but it's true. Punk was the antithesis of "punk." According to the unwritten (naturally) laws of punk, punk became popular only when it died. It was, simply, born to fail. Ah, but there's a cunning, almost diabolical, joke here. When punk broke, people like McLaren made money. They achieved a very un-punk status and they enjoyed every minute of it. You see, according to McLaren and punk, anyone who buys into the "show" is a sucker. The genius behind the marketing is foolproof: The kid in leather with a mohawk who eats ground glass is a sucker. The true punk is the guy who made mohawks and glass eating cool and walked away with a ton of filthy lucre.

As a film, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle is scanty. Like McLaren it's full of cheap shots and low blows. The actual swindle here isn't of the record companies. Much, I'm sure, to McLaren's chagrin. (Though there is a rumor that most of the money spent by McLaren on The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle was in fact swindled by McLaren from the band!) No, Rock and Roll (yes, with caps) was swindled. It was taken for everything it had. The real stars of The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle remain the Sex Pistols; despite McLaren's contention that they were hacks, just a few minutes of seeing Sid Vicious snarling on stage is enough to convince anyone that the only person McLaren was fooling was himself.

Brilliant.

Note: I just love some of the trivia surrounding this picture. How "punk" is this: Originally the film was to have been directed by Russ Meyer and scripted by Roger Ebert!

Aka Sex Pistols - The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.


Comments

The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: NR, 1980

Advertisement

Editors Recommendations

New 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Teaser Trailer Hits The Web. It's Insane. [Trailer]

While Mad Max has never been a docile franchise, we were still...

New 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Teaser Trailer Hits The Web. It's Insane. [Trailer]

Drunken Keith Urban fans hospitalised at concert

Chaos ensued at country star Keith Urban’s concert in Mansfield, Massachussetts as many fans...

Drunken Keith Urban fans hospitalised at concert

Jake Bugg - There's A Beast And We All Feed It

A new black and white video for Jake Bugg's song 'There's A Beast And We All Feed It' has now...

Jake Bugg - There's A Beast And We All Feed It Video

Ian Somerhalder And Nikki Reed Get Affectionate At Comic-Con 2014

Apparently Comic-Con is one giant love fest this year, with Ian Somerhalder...

Ian Somerhalder And Nikki Reed Get Affectionate At Comic-Con 2014

Poll: What Do We Think of The Simpsons/Family Guy Teaser Trailer?

Homer and Peter Griffin, Bart and Stewie, Marge and Lois, Lisa and Meg...

Poll: What Do We Think of The Simpsons/Family Guy Teaser Trailer?

The Kooks - Forgive & Forget (Live At Hana Studios)

The Kooks are set to return with their fourth studio album 'Listen' on September 1st 2014 via Virgin...

The Kooks - Forgive & Forget (Live At Hana Studios) Video
Advertisement

Marvel's "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" Trailer Debuted At SDCC And Looked Awesome, Probably.

Marvel kicked off promotion for Avengers: Age of Ultron early at SDCC...

Marvel's

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 'Our Leader The Mockingjay'

Katniss Everdeen has survived the latest political disaster of Panem...

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Trailer

Lily Allen's Instagram Prank Might Get Aussie Policeman In Trouble

Lily Allen’s Instagram prank with the help of an Australian police officer could...

Lily Allen's Instagram Prank Might Get Aussie Policeman In Trouble


More recommendations

Advertisement