Julien Temple at MFAH
English director Julien Temple has spent a career making exciting films as well as turning out some of the best documentaries made about rock and roll. Some of Temple’s films include The Ecstasy of Wilco Johnson, Pandaemonium, The Filth and the Fury, At the Max, Earth Girls are Easy, Absolute Beginners, and The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.
Additionally Temple has helmed rock videos for Dexys Midnight Runners (“Come on Eileen”), Culture Club (“Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”), David Bowie (“Jazzin’ for Blue Jean”), and Van Halen’s “Jump.” That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Temple’s daughter Juno also has a successful career as an actress, currently burning up the small screen in her role as a music publicist in the HBO series Vinyl.
This weekend the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston welcomes Temple for a three-night mini-retro with four films that focus on his accomplishments. The films are: The Filth and the Fury; Never Mind the Baubles: Xmas ’77 with the Sex Pistols; Absolute Beginners; and Earth Girls Are Easy.
Temple will introduce each film, and will also take part in a moderated discussion after the screening of Absolute Beginners.
Of the four films being shown perhaps the most important event is unwinding the 2013 BBC one-hour documentary Never Mind the Baubles: Xmas ’77 with the Sex Pistols (Thursday, May 5 at 9:00 pm.). As far as I can tell this doc, which aired on British telly on Boxer’s Day late at night in 2013, has rarely been shown in an American cinema.
Never Mind the Baubles is assembled around live footage that Temple shot during Christmas of 1977 with “crappy U-matic low band cameras.” Other than snippets that have popped up in other documentaries this footage has never been seen.
The occasion was a series of benefit concerts held for “striking firefighters at Ivanhoe’s nightclub in Huddersfield.” From an article in The Guardian by Dave Simpson: “As Temple remembers, they arrived in Huddersfield at the height of a moral panic and tabloid frenzy. ‘To most people they were monsters in the news. But seeing them playing to seven-and-eight-year-olds is beautiful. They were a radical band, but there was a lot more heart to that group than people know.’”
The Sex Pistols had been officially banned from playing concerts in the UK, and this was their last concert on their home turf. Less than a month later, following a 13-venue tour of America, The Sex Pistols would be broken up. Your humble scribe, then a mere lad, attended the January 8, 1978 Sex Pistols concert at Randy’s Rodeo in San Antonio.
Don’t miss any of these films this weekend, but especially make plans to see Never Mind the Baubles. The doc doesn’t just cover the concert at Huddersfield but rather is a wall-to-wall examination of the state of England at that time. Temple incorporates sights, clips, and sounds from the era. The spirit of Dick Whittington lives on. News clips show how television personalities celebrated the holidays for the straight set. There are many songs heard on the soundtrack from a wide array of sources, including Sex Pistols’ guitarist Steve Jones whistling the pop instrumental “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman,” a witty ditty first recorded by Whistling Jack Smith in 1967. Jones and Sex Pistols’ lead singer John Rotten, and drummer Paul Cook are seen reminiscing about the times in interviews shot in 2013.
Click here for a complete list of films, times and prices on the MFAH website.
— Michael Bergeron