Sad Vacation – The Last Days of Sid and Nancy
Studio: Chip Baker Films
Directed by Danny Garcia
Jan 09, 2017
Sad Vacation – The Last Days of Sid and Nancy examines the infamous 1978 New York stay of Sid Vicious and girlfriend/enabler Nancy Spungen, culminating in her death from knife wounds. The story is branded in rock lore and because of its main characters and galling and mysterious outcome, captivated an entire generation of music culture. Numerous films have shed light on the short and tragic lives of these two and this one specifically centers around the incident that brought their demise. In a manner of detective interrogation, filmmaker Danny Garcia conducts interviews of the people closest to Sid and Nancy at the time - as close as those could be to the deviated who were strung out on dope - and theories are abound. The most plausible one comes from then roadie for the Sex Pistols, Steve “Roadent” Conolly who knew the two as “cutters” and junkies: “I just think they were cutting each other, they went into a nod, she bled to death, he woke up, and she was dead beside her.” Conolly later affirms that it was an accident, and a perfectly understandable accident in the “smack” milieu. From this take’s placement just before the launch into the background of the sad, codependent relationship, one can infer that Garcia is on board with it. The version of the axiom commonly known as Ockham's razor, presented in the film’s first frame, supports this conclusion from the outset: “Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”
The scene of the crime was the notorious Chelsea Hotel, which by its various descriptions from those who hung around it, seemed like it could have only existed in a fantastical, Kerouacian novel of debaucherous fringe culture, not a place you could imagine would be able to operate above the level today. Most telling are the descriptions of Sid and Nancy. The eras famed photographer, Bob Gruen recalls that when he saw them at the time, “They looked terrible, like junkies that hadn’t slept in a couple of days, which is what they were.” The film’s ultimate purpose is to show us that the two of them were living right up against the edge when the incident went down, so really, anything could have happened. By the looks of the fittingly sketchy footage retrieved for this depiction, which begins to stretch thin and even get recycled as the film progresses, you don't get the sense that either one of them saw much of a future to live for. It was more like they were trying to get through whatever short amount of time they had on earth in as little pain as possible through their masochistic, drug aided escapism.
After the setup of anecdotal impressions and bits of personal history revealing Sid and Nancy’s respectively troubled upbringings, we ramp into the case examination section of the film, where you find yourself playing detective. The background music is low and harrowing, sounding like it could fit in your typical A&E unsolved crime episode, and Garcia puts you in the position of measuring the veracity of the accounts yourself. The most plain truth emerges from actor Victor Colicchio, who matter of factly points out that there were too many shady characters around The Chelsea at the time, freely passing through one another’s rooms, for Sid to have been pegged beyond a shadow of a doubt. And so this makes the game of sleuth more riveting.
Conolly is the most articulate in his recounting of the scene back then and what forged Sid and Nancy’s personalities, perhaps because he knew them best. In his estimation, “People think too much about punk and music and it was more punk and attitude...Sid not only was the epitome of that attitude but he became the caricature of it as well. He became the avatar of Punk.” Behind the drug haze and living up to that iconic image, people saw Sid as sweet and misguided, mostly by Nancy. As we come to learn, all he had besides that personae was her. When the Pistols broke up and she died shortly thereafter, hope seemed to vanish for him. It's crazy to think that both Sid and Nancy had just left adolescence behind when they met their fates and that for all the fuss about Sid Vicious, his tenure with the Sex Pistols lasted less than a year. Some lives are tragic and enigmatic, raging flames that burn out suddenly so that all we have are the recollections of those that danced around them. Sad Vacation gathers these and invites you into the shadows to have a look for yourself.
Author rating: 7/10
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