THE PUBLIC IMAGE IS ROTTEN REVIEWED
“The Public Image is Rotten” spotlights one of my favorite surviving musicians. John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten shows what happens when Punk survives into a new era. Modern kids with no ability to frame history past the end of their nose forces their beliefs upon it. As a result, this documentary could feel like the rantings of an old relic that survived Punk and shat himself into the diapered world of New Wave and Pop. That couldn’t be any further from the truth.
John Lydon has left the Johnny Rotten image comfortably in the past. So, when he takes the time to act like a person, others can’t reconcile it. If Punk ruined anything, it was the ability to have a new cultural movement that didn’t ascribe to the archetypal bad boy image. What the The Public Image is Rotten shows is a man that had a pet project, but also family responsibilities. Mining reality TV and commercials for British butter, the former Punk found a way to tweak the system that continues to steal from his youth.
If there is anything to be taken away from the documentary, it’s that repeated chorus from Rise. Anger is an energy. Public Image Limited was a thesis statement on what made Lydon angry and powered his punk stance. The band was started in the waning years of The Sex Pistols and it mainly erupted from anger and opportunity. Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren was an over-glorified boy band manager that abused the British Punk movement. He knew how to stage the Pistols in a way that sold records, but pissed off Lydon.
Watching Lydon reconcile this anger with the rotating members of Public Image Limited was fascinating. There wasn’t a time where Lydon doesn’t control every aspect of PIL, but in a way that feels fair to the musicians. Plus, it was touching to see how he met his wife and how the couple raised their grand kids. For some reason, I didn’t know that his stepdaughter founded The Slits. If anything, this is a documentary about a former puppet becoming the shot caller and deciding how to act responsibly. That might go over the heads of people who just want to complain about him agreeing with some right wing yahoo for the lulz.
- 1 hr and 43 mins
- Not Rated