Listing to Pulp’s His ‘N’ Hers, Different Class and This Is Hardcore brings back many memories from my late teens and early 20’s. I was trying to figure out what it is about Pulp that has made me so totally head over heels with them, and their enigmatic frontman Jarvis Cocker. In 2008 I stood only a few feet away from my perfect popstar Jarvis, at a festival, however, I just couldn’t bring myself to talk to him, preferring instead to keep him as the magical impish stage prancer that I loved. I regret that moment of shyness, as every time I listen to Pulp’s music all those feelings of awe come flowing back. So, when I heard about Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets was showing at NZIFF I couldn’t wait to absorb myself in Pulpy goodness.
Florian Habicht’s ode to Pulp is focused on the ‘common people’, the fans, friends, family and general ordinary folk of the northern English city of Sheffield. The band returns to Sheffield for their homecoming swan song, or as Jarvis calls it some’ tidying up’. He expresses that they never quite finished how he would have liked, so he wants to return where it all began. Home.
We meet lots of colourful characters, from old aged pensioners to international young fans. This isn’t the flashy ‘how the other half live’ image that can so often feature in rockumentaries. In fact, there is a notable lack of rock star excess stories, choosing instead to replace these with a more personal look at how this band came to be. Their influence is shown to not only be on modern pop music but on people from their home city.
The film is somewhat odd at times, but I found myself becoming fond of this seemingly random selection of the general public; with the ‘Help The Aged’ scene being my favourtie of the film. All these characters had their story to tell about how Pulp, and Jarvis Cocker, had influenced their lives.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s your fair share of Jarvis thrusting and gyrating on stage. The big hits are featured, and their artistic merit is celebrated. Jarvis appears to give the kind of energetic appreciative pitch perfect performance that says thank you to his home.
This film made me smile, not just for my personal affection for the band, but for the sense of togetherness and community that it presents. It shows what music really does: it bonds us, it allows us to connect with each other, it makes us wear slogans on our t-shirts. A great lyricist such as Cocker is able to convey exactly what we want to say making us feel that we have found our very own crusader. I think this is how the fans in Sheffield feel about their Pulp. This band belongs to them and their city, and always will.
Pulp fans, music fans and general human beings will love this quirky insight into identity and rock ‘n’ roll.
Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar