Gaining most of their success in the mid-90s, particularly with their release of the classic album Different Class in ’95, Pulp, led by the enigmatic frontman Jarvis Cocker, have since returned to the stage, reuniting to tour once again. This documentary chronicles the band’s decision to get back together, in the build up to their final show – in their hometown of Sheffield.
Sheffield plays a huge part in this title, as Habicht follows the city’s inhabitants voyeuristically, similarly to how Jonathan Glazer studies Glasgow in Under the Skin, just watching people going about their everyday life. It’s fascinating to watch because this is Pulp’s music; these people and these seemingly mundane situations, are what inspired Cocker’s observational, kitchen-sink drama approach to songwriting. This world we’re seeing is the same world we know so well from listening to the band’s music, and his lyrical prowess. Society may have inspired the music, but now the music is inspiring the society and it’s a notion our filmmaker explores fervently. So many people from different walks of life, be it young dance troupes, to elderly pensioners (to quite creepy newspaper sellers) – they all come together in a mutual appreciation for the band’s music.
Habicht effectively uses Pulp as a vessel to channel other themes and study working class Britain. In that regard this is similar to The Class of ’92, the documentary about Manchester United’s stars. It’s taking an important facet of popular culture, and using it as a catalyst to delve into a fascinating time in Britain, with New Labout coming in to government, and a feeling of change sweeping over the nation, and Britpop is the soundtrack, defining the era. That’s not to say the film is completely restricted to Sheffield, or Britain, for that matter – as we meet a fan from Georgia, who has travelled over from the States just to be at this gig.
Jarvis Cocker is a beguiling entry point into this tale too, with an infectious charisma that demands the attention of the viewer, much in the same way he commands a stage when playing live, almost controlling the audience. He is a little self-conscious though and overtly aware he’s being filmed, and it becomes difficult to judge who is the real Jarvis and what’s all an act, as we struggle to get beneath the facade while he plays up to his kooky persona. Not to say that’s a bad thing, the man is a natural performer and he even admits that he can’t be himself when the camera is on him. Many great personalities make up the supporting cast, as Habicht has collected a series of brilliant talking heads amongst the locals, that at times can be so funny you can’t believe it’s not scripted.
Though not quite as accomplished or visually striking as Made of Stone for instance – they share a similar premise, particularly in how unbiased they both are. That much is evident in how Cocker was instrumental in the conception of this feature, as a film that’s merely a celebration of their music and culture, with little need for impartiality. However in regards to the aforementioned picture, it’s somewhat unfair to compare as that was made by a more influential filmmaker in Shane Meadows, and about a more influential band. But this more than holds its own, as a distinctively uplifting piece of cinema. You don’t need to like the band to appreciate this documentary either, as just seeing what the music means to others is enlightening and invigorating. That being said, if you do love Pulp, well, let’s just say it certainly helps.