Film review – PULP: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets

UK Premiere and live Q&A with Pulp – 7th June 2014 – City Hall, Sheffield
Screened at: Watershed, Bristol

PULP BY NAT URAZMETOVA -cropped2

It‘s clear from the start that PULP: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets will be no straightforward concert movie. Any notion of linear structure is gleefully dispensed with as the film jumps and flits about like some vintage Jarvis choreography. Scenes of the band mix with sketches of everyday life in Sheffield; band members chat candidly while punters in the street wax lyrical over what Pulp mean to them; footage of their reunion gig in December 2012 is interspersed with vintage clips from their wilderness years.

The result is a giddy cinematic patchwork, by turns absurd, hilarious and moving. It’s drunk with love not just for Pulp themselves but for the city and people of Sheffield.

It may be fuzzy and nostalgic, but viewed through the kaleidoscopic lens of its mischievous director Florian Habicht, a safe course is always steered away from the sentimental towards the … well … just plain mental.

Surreal sequences alternate with wise words from the ever-insightful Mr Cocker and co until you feel cocooned in this wonderfully woozy world where nothing makes sense but every word feels profound.

OK, maybe the barrage of hilarity that makes up the first half-hour isn’t quite sustained for the duration of the film, but I guess that’s the price you pay for Florian’s impulsive, virtuoso film-making. In his adorably shambolic introduction, he beams like an overexcited puppy who can’t quite believe he’s getting away with it. And if the end result here may be a little uneven, Florian’s wide-eyed enthusiasm makes it utterly forgivable.

[Steve Mackey (bassist), Fabian Habicht (director), Jarvis Cocker (sex god)]

Steve Mackey (bassist), Fabian Habicht (director), Jarvis Cocker (sex god)

Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse after the screening when we link up again with Sheffield (Sex) City Hall for a Q&A session with the band and the film’s director. Adam Buxton was originally listed as host for the session but it is Paul Morley who turns up on the night. He appears to have arrived fresh from some kind of brawl outside and clearly would rather be anywhere else in the world right now. He spins questions so overwrought and impenetrable it feels like sitting an English Lit exam.

Troopers to the last, each band member proves their articulacy and heroically deciphers Mr Morley’s riddles, but it’s a tough ask to make it entertaining. And if Mr Morley is the teacher posing the questions, then Florian is the cheeky schoolboy who hasn’t revised but somehow wings his way through it with a grin. Thank goodness Jarvis is on hand to make sense of it all for us.

What should have been a joyous celebration of the band and the film we’d all just shared together becomes a horrible comedown that is pretty painful to watch.

According to the NME, band members were mobbed by fans at the screening in Sheffield. Maybe Paul Morley was brought in to quell the crowd – with boredom.

qa

The Q&A session inevitably led to questions about the band’s future. Do Pulp remain a going concern? Will there ever be another gig? Or new music? Candida was unconvinced. But Nick seemed up for it so who knows? If there is no more Pulp to look forward to then PULP: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets will remain a fittingly thoughtful, hilarious, scruffy memento to a band that were definitely a different class.

A post-script

Back in the day, I dressed myself to look like Jarvis – and I know I wasn’t the only one. Indie nights nationwide were peppered with geeky gawky individuals like me flaunting their latest acquisitions from the local Age Concern outlet. I no longer take my sartorial cues from Jarvis but I had expected to see some more committed devotees in attendance tonight. But sadly no: there wasn’t a ruffled blouse to be seen. On the men, I mean. Even the band members themselves have smartened up and had dental work.

The only person who still dresses that way is Jarvis. And he still looks magnificent. It was never a phase, never an affectation. His heeled boots and Bo Selecta specs remain the epitome of geek chic that they always were.

It seems there is, and always has been, only one Jarvis Cocker. And that’s Jarvis Cocker.

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