Phil Strongman - Anarchy! The McLaren Westwood Gang DVD review

Too much Malcolm and too little Viv

Anarchy! The McLaren Westwood Gang DVD cover

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In this new documentary, director Phil Strongman tracks down countless talking heads to retell the most comprehensively raked-over tale of the 20th century, and in so doing bites off more than he can chew.

Faced with copious interviews – some priceless (McLaren’s brother Stewart Edwards, stepson Ben Westwood, art school pal Fred Vermorel), some useful (Pistols Cook and Matlock, Ants Adam and Marco, Bow Wows Barbe and Gorman), some peripheral (Emin, Yentob) and some more suited to another film (anarchist Stuart Christie) – Strongman’s clearly loathe to lose a frame.

Meanwhile, Vivienne Westwood and Bernard Rhodes’ silence is deafening, the final cut’s over 140 minutes long and… what is it? Punk doc? McLaren biopic? History of 20th-century anarchism? What’s Durruti’s funeral doing here? Why all the purpose-shot footage of models wearing Westwood in awkward tableaux? What’s needed here is an unsentimental editor’s eye.

We’ve been here before with Lech Kowalski’s Born To Lose and Shaun Pettigrew’s The Death And Resurrection Show, overlong post-Temple fan movies in perpetual search of a definitive cut. Whatever, 90 minutes of this could have been recut into a fascinating McLaren documentary, with the remaining 50 minutes squirrelled away for its DVD extras. As it is, this is one for the Sex-obsessed only.

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.