Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets (NR)

Documentary 90 November 19, 2014
By Stephanie Zacharek
This gingery, deeply affectionate documentary is about about many things, but maybe it's mostly about the mingled tragedy and glory of coming from where you came from. Long before their rise to fame, the members of the Yorkshire-bred band Pulp, led by precocious stringbean-in-pants Jarvis Cocker, must have asked, like so many young people do, what the rest of the world is like. Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets shows that even after they found out what the world had to offer -- they were still OK with Sheffield.

This isn't a film about the cozy safety of returning to your roots, but about being honest — maybe even jubilant — about how where you're from becomes part of who you are. It's framed by footage from the band's final U.K. concert, in 2012: Pulp, active from roughly the late '70s until 2002, reunited in 2011, and decided to play their farewell show in Sheffield. Looking simultaneously solemn and puckish in his horn-rimmed goggle-glasses and gently graying beard -- like a child's-book illustration of himself -- Cocker explains what instigated the reunion in the first place: He felt the band left too many loose ends, and reuniting for a time seemed like the right thing to do, even if "tidying up isn't the greatest rock 'n' roll motivation."

Director Florian Habicht's camera captures Cocker doing ordinary Sheffield-or-anywhere stuff, like changing a tire -- Cocker has recently had a dream about doing just that, he explains, and the workaday quality of his sleep time is a little alarming to him. The band's longtime drummer coaches a Sheffield girls' soccer team, of which Pulp are a partial sponsor — the band's name is emblazoned on the jerseys.
Florian Habicht Jarvis Cocker, Nick Banks, Candida Doyle, Steve Mackey, Mark Webber Oscilloscope Films

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