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REVIEW: Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets (Florian Habicht – 2014)

pulp5Pulp: A Film About Life Death and Supermarkets, following a popular festival run at the Sydney, New Zealand and Melbourne International Film Festivals has been set for home entertainment release on September 10, 2014.

Pulp is directed by Florian Habicht and came about after Jarvis Cocker, the frontman for the iconic BritPop group, saw Habicht’s film Love Story at the London Film Festival. From there a collaboration brewed, with Habicht agreeing to capture Pulp’s farewell concert in their home town of Sheffield, taking to the streets to meet some of the eccentric locals and find out just how much the band is a part of the city’s culture and character along the way. What I especially enjoyed about this unconventional rock-doc is the fact that it isn’t just about the band, but very much also the people of Sheffield, and how they have been united over the years by Pulp’s music.

pulp2This documentary has spawned a new Pulp fan out of me. Their music is terrific. I was a little concerned about fifteen minutes in, however. The film gets stuck stretching out the theme of their iconic song ‘Common People’, with the track playing on a loop. Thankfully, as we begin to delve more into the band, the soundtrack evolves into some of their lesser-know tracks.

The concert footage that bookends the film is fantastic – their performance of controversial hit ‘This is Hardcore’ a definite highlight – while Habricht casually chats with the band members and their acquaintances, offering insight into their creative drive and commentary on the origins of Cocker’s raw, powerful, intelligent and meaningful lyrics and their merits within the business. Cocker doesn’t give a lot away, proving to be very modest about his celebrity status. We can see just how proud the city is of Cocker for being rewarded for his dedication.

There is a sense of unity with Pulp. Extraordinarily, they have remained together for 25 years, rarely with a crack in the foundation. Perhaps the most surprising revelation is keyboardist Candida Doyle revealing one dark period when she contemplated quitting. But, when they reunite, halting their new normal lives (one of the members is now coaching his daughter’s football team, Habicht tracks down tidbits about Cocker’s old day job) to return to music, they faultlessly perform dozens of tracks as if they had never stopped playing together.

pulp4Cocker admitted that he was unfulfilled with how the band left things, and he wanted to end the dream on home turf. Bringing their music back to Sheffield, they share their anxieties and the pressure they feel to deliver for their fans and family. In the end the risk pays off, as they deliver an unforgettable final show.

When I think about some of the great music-bio documentaries (from Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and Anvil! The Story of Anvil to more recently, A Band Called Death) this one doesn’t quite meet that level, but one can’t help but admire its ability to be so watchable and entertaining. Habticht gives the city of Sheffield and its interesting characters and appreciative fans as much time as the band, and we get a sense of how respected Pulp is within the realm of BritPop, and how their music has uniquely touched many citizens of Sheffield. We understand that this decade-spanning relationship goes both ways. Cocker and Pulp would not be the same without their Sheffield roots, while the city is proud to call Pulp their own.

Andrew Buckle – follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22

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