In the midst of this, we glimpse the animated escapades of the band, left over from Swindle, but The Filth and the Fury is really about stripping away the cartoon to discover friendship, partnership, and trust -- and what happens when all three are violated. The original members share their present-day insights in tasteful silhouette from their homes in Los Angeles, and a lengthy interview with Vicious from 1978 completes the set. There's compassion, confusion, and several stabs of regret, both professional (McLaren is soundly lambasted) and personal. (Of groupie/junkie Nancy Spungen, Rotten confesses, "I actually introduced her to Sid, and shame on me!") Voilà: the Sex Pistols as human beings.
By the time they're blasting "No Fun" in San Francisco at the end of their ruinous American tour and Vicious is sucked into his ugly spiral with Spungen, it's clear that, somehow, the ambition and verve of the young men have been eviscerated and exploited. A surprising poignancy hangs over the proceedings when the punk band falls away, the hyped-up distortions dissolve, and the rockers are thrown like bodies from a jammed carnival ride. "The Pistols wasn't about destroying ourselves," Rotten has commented since. "It was about destroying a situation that was destroying us." Emerging from Temple's trashy and soulful film, one ponders how close the antidote is to the poison, and how tricky it can be to tell them apart.