Sid & Nancy Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
It’s October 12, 1978 at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Sid Vicious sits on the bed, sweaty, shirt opened, his trademark padlock chain necklace on. The police want to know who called 911 as the body of his girlfriend is carried out.
The film jumps to just the previous year. The Sex Pistols have made their mark and inflicted damage on the punk scene, with an album called Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols and shows that are loud, filthy and furious, attracting those that want to get away from anything just to get loud, filthy and furious. One fan is an American named Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb, in her debut), who settles with bassist Sid (Gary Oldman, Mike Leigh’s MEANTIME)–of course, their version of “settles” involves heroin, screaming and violence.
Knowing that the relationship was a short one and ended in death (one: Nancy of stab wounds; two: Sid’s 1979 overdose, less than four months after being charged for Nancy’s death) offers a clear bold underline of tragedy. It’s easy to write both Sid and Nancy off as vulgar, crusty junkies, but director Alex Cox (1984’s REPO MAN) doesn’t allow it. They were these things, but they were something more important: lovers. They were fit to be “Sid & Nancy”–he needed the sort of person Nancy was, and she needed the sort of person Sid was. Nancy may be an obnoxious brat, but she wants the band–especially Sid–to quit “wonking off” and do what they’re on the planet to do.
While the central relationship blooms (and implodes), the Sex Pistols go on tour and rip through the culture. This allows for the welcome appearances of lead singer Johnny Rotten (Andrew Schofield, miniseries KIDNAPPED) and manager Malcolm McLaren (David Hayman, 1985’s HEAVENLY PURSUITS), central figures no doubt in punk history but more of minor characters here. The film is titled SID & NANCY for a reason.
One of the most fascinating components of SID & NANCY is that neither of the titular figures (whose combined age at their times of death was a mere 41) are likeable. Individually, we can brush them off as hopeless, self-harming sacks of venom; and it doesn’t take a full analysis to see that Nancy was a groupie gone “legit” or a trained ear to know that Sid was a lousy bassist. But together, they were something else entirely: they were Sid & Nancy. (They are the only onscreen couple who could make falling trash and apartment fires romantic.)
Both Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb do something remarkable in their performances, bringing a concrete humanity to Sid and Nancy. Through them, their wants, desires and flaws are on display, and there is a sort of lovely tragedy at hand. Primarily because of Oldman and Webb, SID & NANCY proves to be something it couldn’t have been expected to be: one of the great cinematic romances.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “Supervised and approved by director of photography Roger Deakins, this new 16-bit 4K digital transfer was created on a DFT Scanity film scanner from the original 35 mm camera negative at Deluxe in Culver City, California. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for jitty, flicker, small dirt, grain, and noise management.”
SID & NANCY looks excellent in this high-definition transfer, showing that Criterion still cares greatly about one of its earliest releases (it’s spine #20). With grain intact (a trait that will please purists), details are strong, colors are nice and the overall image is a significant improvement over the initial DVD release.
Audio: English Stereo. “The original stereo soundtrack was remastered from the 35 mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX.”
Dialogue is clean and the soundtrack comes through with clarity and often necessary power.
Commentary featuring cowriter Abbe Wool, actors Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, cultural historian Greil Marcus, filmmakers Julien Temple and Lech Kowalski, and musician Eliot Kidd: In this 1994 commentary, contributors touch on the band, the titular subjects, the era, the cast and much, much more. An excellent track for fans.
Commentary featuring cowriter-director Alex Cox and actor Andrew Schofield: In this 2001 commentary, Cox and Schofield discuss the production of SID & NANCY, with focus on various sequences, the cast’s performances, the music and more. A terrific companion to the first commentary.
England’s Glory (30:22): This 1987 documentary looks at the making of SID & NANCY through on-set footage and comments from the cast and crew.
Alex Cox (24:02): Director Cox reflects on his 1986 feature.
Sad Vacation (14:27): Found here are excerpts from Danny Garcia’s 2016 documentary SAD VACATION: THE LAST DAYS OF SID AND NANCY.
D.O.A.: A Right of Passage (10:08) features footage of the actual Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen from a 1980 documentary covering the Sex Pistols’ American tour.
Sid Vicious, 1978 (13:08): This phone interview between Vicious and photographer Roberta Bayley was recorded five days after the Sex Pistols’ final concert, three days after an overdose and one day after a drug-induced coma.
The Filth and the Fury! (2:55) features the controversial 1976 interview on Today that helped solidify the band’s reputation.
The London Weekend Show (13:34): Included here are excerpts from a 1976 episode of the British program on punk music and fashion.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release is an essay by author Jon Savage and a 1986 piece compiled by Cox about Vicious, Spungen, and the making of the film.