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Review: 'Pulp' is a suitably wry look at musical gods - Metro US

Review: ‘Pulp’ is a suitably wry look at musical gods

Pulp
Jarvis Cocker gets down in a documentary about his band Pulp.
Oscilloscope Laboratories

‘Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets’
Director:
Florian Habicht
Genre: Music documentary
Rating: NR
3 (out of 5) Globes

At one point in Pulp’s big, retrospective documentary, Jarvis Cocker, its nerdishly swaggering frontman, apologizes for a confession that nearly sounds “moany.” Naturally, this is no Behind the Music primer but rather second, maybe even third level — a film for the longtime fans, not one to get them newbies. (Though you try resisting “Disco 2000.”) Though frontloaded with their biggest hit, “Pulp” only barely tells their story; you’ll only learn random bits of Wikipedia trivia. Instead it prefers incidental pleasures, exploring not only Cocker’s neuroses — like how he prefers communicating with impossibly large crowds over intimate relationships — but also how guitarist Mark Webber prefers never being recognized on the street. Successful yet anonymous — surely that’s the dream.

The centerpiece is their final concert, from 2012, held in their dingy hometown of Sheffield. It’s not just about them; it’s about their town — or at least about how their town loves them, from their now middle-aged original fans to the old to the very, very young. (For a look at the many other bands that came from the partly industrial town — which includes everyone from The Human League to Def Leppard — check out the doc “Made in Sheffield.”) It doesn’t come off as onanistic; the band is too very English self-deprecating for that. It’s honest and fumbling, repeatedly showing Cocker failing badly to change a tire, or reflecting on aging — an anxiety he explored from relative youth with “Help the Aged.”

If anything the film is too scattershot, disorganized. Even with the backdrop of the show to lean on, it can’t find a center of gravity, hopscotching willy-nilly between interviews with the band, interviews with Sheffield locals and the occasional, maddeningly interrupted concert footage. It does, however, feel intimate, handmade. Of course, those hands belong to the band themselves, who collaborated on the film in their own honor, though it’s never less than self-deprecating and, despite the pomp, modest in a purely English way. For better or worse, it’s the Pulp movie you’d expect, which is to say one that’s really into “This is Hardcore.”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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