Not quite rockumentary, never just a concert film, Pistachio Pictures Pulp film directed by Florian Habicht somehow manages to rate as one of the very best rockumentaries we’ve seen, and a whole new approach to the stale cliche that is the concert film. When Bono started floating across screens in 3D and the Stones were lazily mugging for Scorsese you knew the concert film was dying. And though LCD Soundsystem did their best to reinvent – or at least resuscitate – the format it just smacked of being a little too pretentious. And, despite a truly triumphant + jubilant final show, James Murphy kinda sounded like exhausted dirt.
No issues like that here – Habicht captures the final stop on the final Pulp tour, a hometown gig for the band that hails from England’s Sheffield, so he serves up that satisfying, emotionally overwhelming moment, or moments with stunning presentation. But he frames the performance and the band up against this hometown, showing how the geographic placement – Sheffield – is so much more than that, it’s the philosophical home for this music too; it has spiritually informed these players and their songs. It’s also nice to see the, er, common people that go mad for this band.
What makes this film about Pulp really work is that it almost isn’t really about Pulp. It isn’t about music, it isn’t about being creative, it isn’t full of gnarled clichés. Instead we get a sense of actually meeting people, finding out what the man and woman on the street do, what they like, who they are. It’s about pride and hometown heroes and it just happens to have a magnificent soundtrack thanks to the music of Pulp; a type of music that seems to just get better with age.
In the strangest, mercurial way this manages to be both the Pulp film that Pulp fans have wanted and will love and a film that doesn’t have all that much to do with Pulp that people who have never heard (or heard of) the band could likely take a lot of pleasure from watching.
It helps of course to have a subject like Jarvis Cocker, infinitely quotable, indelibly watchable and with a palpable (Pulpable) energy when we do in fact get to the live footage. Eventually the film threads in some archival interviews and performances, but it’s really only an hour into the coolest, strangest, loveliest tour-brochure of a film that you realise you are actually picking up on the history of the band, presented to you by a huge fan of the band.
So this lovely, loving postcard to Britpop’s lasting heroes – the outside force that ended up lasting the distance, meaning more than the headline-grabbers of the time – is the best music film I’ve seen in some time. And that’s simply because it was so feel-good, so joyous. And then when it got down to the music I felt the visceral edge of Pulp live in concert. But before all of that I met the fans, drank in the band members’ humble beginnings, laughed at nothing. And then fell in love with everything.