Sid And Nancy
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Sid And Nancy

Ever since I first encountered the lauded Criterion Collection, their titles have received a special place in my collection. As a lifelong cinephile, the movies contained in this collection were an actual gift. Most obviously they have replaced the usual additional material consisting of bloopers, gag reels, deleted and extended scenes culled from sweeping discarded film strips from the editor’s floor. The space afforded by the digital formats was put to a much better use. Criterion Collection offerings contain interviews with the actual creative minds behind the making of the film. They readily provide scholarly analysis of the film utilizing insight from experts in the fields and academia that have built their reputations on teaching the finer points of artistic expression through cinema. The result is not only are you able to experience the film the way the filmmaker intended, but you are given what amounts to a near graduate level course in film. In choosing the titles for inclusion, the people at Criterion have a criterion for defining the great movies representing the media. Some may feel that this list should exclude the so-called cult classics or movies with a very particular demographic. Because of this wise decision movie like the fifty’s science fiction classic, ‘The Blob’ and a biography of punk rock icon, ‘Sid and Nancy.' This biopic details the lives and tumultuous love affair of Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) and Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). Vicious is considered one of the seminal creators of the punk rock movement. Understandably, there are a substantial number of dedicated movie enthusiasts not concerned with either the man or the type of music he engendered. Despite this, the film is an example of storytelling that transcends the likeability of its subject. This is a topic that comes up frequently when there is a movie that artistically deals with themes addressing what is decidedly contrary to the sensibilities of most of the audience. In a measure of full disclosure, this form of music and regret the loss of an admittedly self-destructive, and deeply disturbed individual. Cinema reflects life, and that must include the awkward to watch and uncomfortable portions.

The story begins on October 12, 1978, in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The use of starting in medias res is a time proven plot device to draw the audience into the story. The police have taken Vicious into custody to question him concerning the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy. Regardless of how you might feel about punk rock or Sid Vicious, it must be admitted that this is a uniquely dark and different way to begin a love story. The story pulls back about a year unlike the common progression of a traditional romance the events transpire in a concise period. At that time Sid Vicious and his friend, Johnny Rotten (Andrew Schofield) were in a band called The Sex Pistols. Indicative of every aspect of punk rock the names of the band, members and songs were intended to disgust and revolt the general, established punk. Drugs were a major component of this scene, not a just recreational pot of cocaine but the hardest drugs then available, intravenous heroin. Most bands have the propensity to attract ardent fans, groupies, and this instance the most recent is a young woman, Nancy. She had followed the band to a performance in London with the intention of having sex with them. Initially, Sid rebukes her advances, but Nancy is persistent, attractive and lives for the proverbial sex, drugs and rock and roll. For lack of a better term a conventional one serve, they started dating. From the very start, it is made clear that Sid’s emotional investment with Nancy was founded, at least in part, with empathy. He could feel on a visceral level Nancy’s reaction to the rejection and be moved. There is an implication that Nancy introduced side to the heroine, but the presentation of this segment of their relationship may have been altered to increase the dramatic impact of the story, this narrative is conducive to portraying Sid as a victim, at least from a certain perspective. This would be an excellent way to generate a modicum of sympathy for Sid ensuring a heightened potential to bond the viewer to this tragic and distinctly abrasive subject.

Nancy accompanies Sid on a spiraling descent into server addiction. It quickly took its toll on Sid eroding his relationship with his old friend Johnny. The disruption within the band became disastrous so that while on the crucial tour of the States, the inevitable happened. Strung out on the horrendous combination of heroin and methamphetamine Sid was unable to perform on stage so, wasted that he could barely stand. After returning to New York City, Sid leaves the Sex Pistols to pursue a solo career. The group is forced to disband immediately. After returning to New York City, Sid is desperate to start a solo career with Nancy as his manager. Strange as it might sound a girlfriend can come between bandmates urging one to go off on his own. Unfortunately, Sid was ravaged by drug use, his appearance, attitude, and ability crushed to nonexistence. The music industry at that time was exceptionally volatile exasperated by the overabundance of avant-garde groups searching for new sounds. Drugs had stripped Sid of everything, his music, one of his oldest friends extending to possessing a modicum of life. It understandable that Sid spirals uncontrollably into a state of deep depression. With nothing to alter the circumstances, a self-feeding cycle pushes him into an inescapable hell. Drawing in Nancy the pair of tormented lovers hit bottom making a murder-suicide pack. Their lives have degraded to a sexless façade existing from one fix to the next. Sid tries to back out of the pack. The arguments grow in intensity until Sid announces his intention of quitting drugs. Ultimately the love of Sid Vicious, nee John Simon Ritchie, died of what was determined to be an intentional overdose on February 2, 1979.

bulletAlternate 5.1 surround soundtrack
bulletTwo audio commentaries: one from 1994 featuring cowriter Abbe Wool, actors Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, cultural historian Greil Marcus, filmmakers Julien Temple and Lech Kowalski, and musician Eliot Kidd; the other from 2001 featuring cowriter-director Alex Cox and actor Andrew Schofield
bulletEngland s Glory, a 1987 documentary on the making of Sid & Nancy
bulletInfamous 1976 Bill Grundy interview with the Sex Pistols on British television
bulletRare telephone interview from 1978 with Sid Vicious
bulletInterviews with Vicious and Nancy Spungen from the 1980 documentary D.O.A.: A Right of Passage
bulletArchival interviews and footage
bulletPLUS: An essay by author Jon Savage and a 1986 piece compiled by Cox about Vicious, Spungen, and the making of the film

Posted 09/02/2017

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