Title: Pulp:A Film About Life, Death And Supermarkets
Director: Florian Habicht
Major Players: Jarvis Cocker and Pulp, the people of Sheffield
Out Of Five: Four
If, like me, you can’t resist behind-the-scenes documentaries, then you’ll be in your element over the next couple of weeks. Opening this Friday is Pulp:A Film About Life, Death And Supermarkets, documenting the band’s last ever concert which took place in their home city of Sheffield. Then next Monday, 9th, a film with an equally long title – Now:In The Wings On A World Stage – follows the world tour of The Old Vic’s production of Richard III, starring Kevin Spacey, which I’ll be covering on The Coops Review near the time.
So, to Pulp – the film’s original title – which preserves the band’s last ever concert for posterity, as well as bringing it to the big screen for the fans who didn’t get a ticket. And, while there’s large chunks of the event threaded throughout the film, that’s only half of the story. There’s Pulp themselves sharing their thoughts on love and live performance, with a little car maintenance thrown in as well. And, even more importantly, the people of Sheffield.
But what about life, death and supermarkets? That’s just a bit of Jarvis Cocker irony, although he does touch on life and death obliquely. He’s fascinated by the fact that, while the concert is happening with the band and the crowd are oblivious of anything else, life carries out just a stone’s throw from the stadium. People could be doing anything – watching TV, dying, giving birth. It simply continues. The supermarkets, however, simply don’t figure, unless you count the mention in Common People and the fan from Germany who is a buyer for a discount chain.
While the focus of the film is that final concert, the real stars aren’t so much Jarvis and his crew, but the people of Sheffield itself. It’s evident right from the start that Pulp feel a strong connection with their home city and it’s fully reciprocated. For a group that’s always been associated with Britpop, in their home town they have an extraordinarily broad appeal, from the two little girls who are asked to comment on one of their songs, to the Sheffield Star street vendor and the elderly ladies who debate whether Jarvis and Joe Cocker are related. They’re not, by the way, although the story goes that Joe used to babysit the young Jarvis. I’ll leave you to imagine that.
In illustrating the connection between Pulp and its fans, director Florian Habicht uses some neat, creative touches. Towards the end of the film, we’re watching a group of girls singing along at the concert – as you do. But what we hear is actually the concert itself – and they’re nearly in perfect sync.
So is this just one for the fans? I can’t imagine that fans won’t love it and to test my theory, I asked my dyed-in-the-wool Pulp fan friend, Karen Roe, to watch the film as well. And, yes, she loved it, finding it unexpectedly moving in places, especially the local musician and his girlfriend describing how they met in a mental health ward. But she also emphasised that it was worth watching, even if you know nothing at all about Pulp.
Before watching the film, my knowledge stretched to knowing that Jarvis Cocker was their lead singer and that they sang Common People. I’m not sure if I actually know much more now, but that’s not the point of the film. I came away with a sense of a band that enjoys its music and performing it – but doesn’t see it as the be-all and end-all. They’re down-to-earth, talented but witty and wry. No wonder Sheffield’s proud.
Pulp:A Film About Life, Death And Supermarkets is released around the UK on Friday, 6 June and has a special screening at Sheffield DocFest on Saturday, 7 June.