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  Pulp: a Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets In A Different Class
Year: 2014
Director: Florian Habicht
Stars: Jarvis Cocker, Nick Banks, Candida Doyle, Steve Mackey, Mark Webber, Richard Hawley, Various
Genre: Documentary, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The rock and pop band Pulp originally formed in the nineteen-eighties in Sheffield in the north of England, and back in the nineties were blessed with a burst of popularity that plenty of British bands benefitted from as part of the Britpop movement. For many, it wasn't a matter of Blur versus Oasis, as Pulp beat them both thanks to their way with a tune and lyrics that probed far deeper into modern life and relationships than their peers, and to add the cherry on top they had a charismatic frontman in Jarvis Cocker. It was he who wanted to get the band back together for some farewell concerts a good ten years after they had split, since he didn't feel the group had ended their story well, and so it was in 2012 they were playing Sheffield one last time...

There are a load of concert films which simply document a live show, you know the thing, expensive light show, shots of the crowd looking ecstatic or at least entertained, the band sweating their way through their set, geeing up the attendees as the camera will capture the musicians' best moves; if you were lucky you would get the odd item of backstage footage or even a little staged part, such as animation or something dramatic. Director Florian Habicht, working out the concept with Cocker, had something different in mind, apparently reasoning Pulp were inseparable from both the life in their hometown and that population which went with it, and their ever loyal fans who would turn out for this farewell tour.

So this was as much a documentary about the people around Pulp as much as it was a record of their live show, indeed if you wanted lots of concert footage you may be let down as only about fifty percent of the film detailed the shows, and then hardly any song was heard in full. What you did get was an immersive experience where the interviews attempted to conjure the milieu and personality of a Pulp song without reverting to endless sequences of Jarvis and company on the stage, and to a certain extent that was very effective. The folk we heard from were not only the members, although they had their role to play, but others who had the music as part of their lives, be they hardcore followers or simply those who knew the tunes from the radio.

From the band, we saw the girls' football team they sponsored, heard from keyboard player Candida Doyle about her health worries, and guitarist Richard Hawley stepped in as an unofficial contributor thanks to having known them for so long with anecdotes of his own. But it was really Cocker we wanted to hear from, taking the journey from cult figure to something akin to a national treasure, if on a scale that he could cope with (or so you would hope), offering his words of wisdom on the history that had brought him to this point, his background, and so forth, far more approachable than his abrasive contemporaries such as Morrissey, Damon Albarn, Thom Yorke or Liam Gallagher, which naturally was much of his appeal spanning whole classes and generations.

Positioned somewhere between sagely owl and preening peacock on the stage, if you had no prior knowledge of Cocker and his team then you would assuredly see the attraction they had for that surging throng living it up at Pulp's last ever British concert, in the same way that any band whose fans feel completely that the music was speaking to them directly. By this point Cocker had extended his talents to radio, with his regular programmes a must for a variety of listeners, and the release of this film coincided with a time when he was taking a break from that secondary career, which if you watched this might have you realising you had missed hearing his dulcet tones in your life. Fortunately his songs remained regulars on the radio and television, especially the decade-defining, band-defining Common People, so if you gave the documentary a chance it was almost as if they had never been away, although this, they assured us, really was a goodbye. The manner in which those individuals interviewed were woven into the music spoke volumes as to rock and pop's essential, vital nature.

[Soda's two disc Blu-ray and DVD have entire concert tracks, extended interviews from both the band and the locals, behind the scenes footage and Jarvis' sister Saskia Cocker singing Something Changed as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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