Sad Vacation: The Last Days of Sid And Nancy
This is the latest documentary from Danny Garcia who also gave us the brilliant Johnny Thunders documentary “Looking For Johnny”. It promises to give us a real insight in to what happened to Nancy Spurgen in room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel. It benefits from having a whole host of people who were actually there and/or really knew Sid and Nancy.
From the start you realise that this is to be an open and frank documentary about these two punk icons, rather than any kind of wash over. You get a really great understanding of the history of the infamous Chelsea Hotel. A hotel which is described by its own residents as being full of drug dealers, junkies and prostitutes. It really was the perfect setting for the events of that night in 1978.
What makes this documentary so special is not just the use of ‘talking heads’ who were actually there and knew the pair intimately but also the great rough footage it has (both photos and videos). The film doesn’t just focus on Nancy’s death, but also gives a great little potted history of Sid and Nancy.
It’s fair to say that Nancy doesn’t come out of it that well, with even her friends not speaking of her in glowing terms (‘obnoxious and strong’). However, when you hear about her childhood and how, even as a toddler, she was placed on drugs to control her temper, perhaps it provides some reasons for her troubled character. She certainly threw herself fully in to the music scene where she hung out with the biggest acts of the seventies in the US (The New York Dolls and Aerosmith). Indeed she actually set off for London with the aim of getting a Sex Pistol. Whilst not showing her much sympathy, the film does accurately describe her permanently dealing with drug addiction and mental health issues.
The documentary also provides a brief but compelling overview of Sid’s life. It started off equally as tough, with a drug addicted mother who appears to have had no time for her young son. He is portrayed as a far more likeable character, although the film doesn’t shy away from his flaws either. It clearly shows how and why Sid ended up being the caricature of the whole punk look and attitude. It also offers some great little nuggets of information, like the fact Sid invented po-going.
The film also demonstrates the tragic love story of the two. One thing that is certainly made clear is that Sid adored Nancy. Sadly it seemed it was always destined to end in tragedy. Indeed, many of those presents did what they could to break the pair up (including a nice little story about how they tried to kidnap Nancy at one point!).
The heart of the documentary, and where it really excels, is it’s ‘investigation’ in to the events surrounding the discovery of Nancy’s dead body. Be warned though, if you are expecting to find out what actually happened even this brilliant documentary can’t give that answer. It does, however, throw up some really interesting facts. It has some great interviews with those that were around the hotel on the night and saw some of the comings and goings. This includes witnesses who saw other people in the room and a whole host of other potential suspects. The only thing that really seems clear is that IF Sid did kill Nancy, it must have been a tragic accident. One way or another drugs were the cause of the tragic circumstances that resulted in both Nancy and Sid’s demise.
This is an outstanding documentary which will appeal not only to fans of the Sex Pistols but to anyone who has an interest in music or just modern icons. We should also point out that it benefits from a brilliant soundtrack, with some great punk acts both past and present (although not actually featuring any Sex Pistol numbers). Most importantly, away from the normal hype and ‘glorification’ of the lives of Sid and Nancy, the documentary leaves you with the sense of a classic tragic love story that a modern day Shakespeare would have been proud of. Essential viewing.