Thursday, 19 April 2007
SID & NANCY
Sid and Nancy (1986) dir. Alex Cox
Starring: Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb
As my friend Blair Stewart commented on “32 Short Films About Glenn Gould”, the film that resulted from his life is worthy of the work that he produced. Going by that, “Sid & Nancy” is as dirty, clumsy, beguiling and romantic as the legend of the lives of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen and is a perfect representation of their doomed relationship.
The film opens with Sid’s interrogation by the police after the death of his girlfriend Nancy. We then flashback to some time before to see what led to that point – time frames are never given, in fact, we're never introduced to Sid Vicious formally either. There’s no obviously expository line such as “Johnny Rotten, meet Sid Vicious”, nor are there any sepia-toned flashbacks to Sid’s youth. This is a punk film; it’s smart, but not clever and doesn’t follow a formula.
Sid meets Nancy in London. Her carefree attitude about drugs, sex and nihilistic existence fits in well with the band, and she becomes an official hanger-on. After Nancy has a beer thrown on her by an angry bar patron, Vicious moves to comfort her. It’s not a “Hugh Grant” romantic moment, but a Sid Vicious moment, a small gesture of affection which shows his interest in her. During their conversation Sid asks her for some heroin. This is music to Nancy’s ears, and thus begins the downward spiral of their lives.
As Nancy and Sid become closer entwined with each other, so does their insular self-perpetual drug habit. And not surprisingly they quickly drift apart from the band. Just prior to leaving for America, in order to keep Sid clean, the band tells him that he can’t take Nancy on tour. Sid goes to America alone, but their love persists. Sid’s behaviour doesn’t improve, and eventually he’s kicked out of the band for good. Sid and Nancy work together on Sid’s career as a solo artist - the recreation of Sid’s music video for “My Way”, as a scene unto itself, is fascinating - until the drugs fatally destroy both their lives.
“Sid & Nancy” is not without some humour. Junkie antics such as, trashing hotel rooms, beating each other up, falling down in inappropriate places and saying really stupid shit treads finely between horror and humour. Note their visit to Nancy’s parent’s house which borders on the ridiculous – Nancy’s conservative parents entertaining the junkie-to beat-all-junkies at the dinner table and their funny half-hearted attempts to tell them they don’t want heroin-addicts in the house is the blackest of black comedy.
“Sid & Nancy” is also not without beauty. Shot by a young Roger Deakins, the film features scenes of remarkably poetic beauty, specifically Sid and Nancy’s passionate kiss in an alleyway underneath falling garbage.
Director Alex Cox (also "Repo Man") has marked a unique place for himself as one of cinema’s most idiosyncratic directors. He kept “Sid & Nancy” authentic when it could easily have turned into melodrama. And there’s much more story to tell, including his morbid childhood and his harrowing experiences on Riker’s Island prison. Cox even stays away from the temptation to overexploit to salaciousness of his drug taking. And if you ever thought this live-fast/die young junkie love story foreshadowed the troubled life of our generation’s Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain, then the unintentional-cameo of Courtney Love late in the film will freak you out! (and remember this was made in 1986) Either Alex Cox is clairvoyant or he’s a genius. Either way, it makes the film even more complex. Enjoy.
Buy it here: Sid & Nancy