“Sid and Nancy” (1986) dir. Alex Cox

I saw “Sid and Nancy” in 1986, during the week between Christmas and New Years Day when school is not in session and I was visiting my Dad in Washington D.C. I saw it at the (now defunct) Key Theater, a Georgetown multiplex that showed nothing but art films. I remember this was the first time I had been in Georgetown by myself and was particularly excited because I also managed to find a (then-rare) CD copy of the Dead Kennedy’s “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” at Olsson’s Books and Music (sadly out of business).

Anyway, I was really excited to see this not only because this was a major film about punk history, but was also because it was directed by Alex Cox, who directed one of my all-time favorite films, “Repo Man.” The theater was thoughtful enough to include a very killer punk mix of music before the film started. My verdict of “Sid and Nancy” at the time? I thought it was good, even though I knew a lot of it was bullshit. This film gets a lot of stuff wrong, but it was still damn exciting to watch. This was the first time I had seen Gary Oldman (who plays Sid Vicious) and thought he did a magnificent job. The start of a brilliant career… Chloe Webb as Nancy Spungen was also damn good. I’m sorry to see that after an appearance in the Arnold Schwarzenegger / Danny DeVito film “Twins” and a role on the TV show “China Beach” she didn’t do much after that aside from the occasional TV appearance and supporting role. She’s always been memorable in everything she’s been in.

My verdict now? I still think it’s quite remarkable. Yes, it includes a bit too much of Cox quirkiness and while I realize it has even more wrong about the facts than I knew at the time, it still packs quite a wallop. At times, funny and extremely depressing, “Sid and Nancy” is a great rock and roll film, one of the best films ever made about a mutually destructive relationship, and a genuinely thrilling attempt to document the highs and lows of the punk scene in Great Britain and New York City during the late 1970s.

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2 thoughts on ““Sid and Nancy” (1986) dir. Alex Cox

  1. I’m sure you know that Kowalski’s doc “D.O.A.” has quite enough of the real gruesome twosome thank you. I love “Sid & Nancy”, it’s not intended to be truthful & Billy Idol has been “Wally Hairstyle” ever since. I read Cox’s book last year, interesting but the films were less so after such a great start.
    The Y-tube has “Meantime”, a Mike Leigh film from 1984 starring Oldman, Tim Roth & Phil Daniels…enough said. It is a milestone in UK TV &, of course, recommended.

  2. It’s funny how Courtney Love almost got the role of Nancy in the film, but instead she played her friend Gretchen. I agree that Meantime is a classic Gary Oldman & Tim Roth pairing, Oldman playing as a skinhead is excellent.

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