Making great use of a candid interview he conducted with Malcolm in Paris, not long before he died. Director, Phil Strongman, has unearthed some extraordinary, never-before-heard stuff about Malcolm’s childhood and personal life alongside his remarkable story.
Born to a young mother, Malcolm was brought up by his grandmother – – Alan Yentob describes her in the documentary, in Citizen Kane terms, as Malcolm’s ‘Rosebud’. She still had a foot in the Victorian era, and home-schooled her favourite grandson (as Malcolm’s brother describes him with evidently lingering bitterness) for greatness, drumming Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde into him. His art-school teacher was another huge influence, teaching him that “it’s better to be a glorious failure than any kind of benign success”.
But as the title of the film suggests, Anarchy: The Malcolm Westwood Gang also sets Malcolm within the arty-political framework of the time. He narrowly missed spending May 1968 in Paris during the student revolts, and was heavily influenced by the Situationist movement. The creation of the Sex Pistols and the attendant birth of punk and Malcolm’s subsequent career as Bow Wow Wow Svengali and hip-hop pioneer.
Almost three films in one: it’s a history of Anarchism in Europe; a personal biography of Malcolm; and a compelling exposé of the real birth of the Sex Pistols. (Sample: Malcolm originally wanted Sid Vicious rather than Johnny Rotten as lead singer, but, he says, “People didn’t have phones in those days. They didn’t have addresses. They didn’t even homes. Sid didn’t show up when I was anxiously looking, so John got the job… (fronting) a band who couldn’t play as a singer who couldn’t sing.”
Dir. Phil Strongman, UK, 2013, 150 Mins
Cast: Malcolm McLaren, Boy George, Sex Pistols