When I first watched this documentary about four years ago, I can remember loving it in its entirety. The work of documentarian Florian Habicht, in my mind, had brought to life a concert and culture I had no idea I loved, a mesmerising piece of film that kindled a love for all things Pulp. Upon further rewatches and an expanse in musical taste, I’ve found I had more than a few doubts about Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets, a documentary that looks to encapsulate the impact Pulp had on Sheffield and their people, all the while showcasing their farewell concert in their hometown.
That’s quite a lot to cover in a documentary that, as it turns out, is shorter than your average football match. I can respect the attempts at trying to bring so much detail and culture into one documentary, but it seems that Habicht has shed nearly all of the information that would prove useful or interesting to fans of the band. Detailing the nerve-racking lead-up to Pulp’s three-hour home show farewell, Habicht wastes a good deal of time showing off dance troupes, choir groups and elderly fans.
Of course, it’s quite difficult to tell the difference between a love for the music and a love for the actual content and information at times. Hearing Sheffield: Sex City or Death Goes to Disco playing in the background adds a bit of life and flavour to some otherwise futile and irrelevant interviews. Many of the talking heads involved talk of how Pulp’s music brought them a bit of light in the darkest of times, and while that’s lovely to hear, it’s not all that interesting. Most fans of the band will probably be able to tell how Pulp has affected them, and even those that don’t quite know will get little to no information from the plucky optimism put forth by some strangers off of the street.
When we do sit down with the band, it’s too few and far between to make any real splash. Nick Banks is sadly thrown to the side with only a couple of scenes for him, Russel Senior is (predictably) absent entirely from the documentary, not so much as a name drop or a frame of footage of him. It’s rather odd considering how big a staple he was of the band in their affectionate Britpop era of songwriting. They do delve into the disconnect the group felt between Different Class and This is Hardcore, a solid amount of time explaining that they wanted to create something away from the world of pop. It’s interesting, but these moments are few and far between.
Frightfully absent of depth for most of it, it’s hard not to at least respect the documentary for trying to do so much with such a short amount of time. More focus is needed though, either on the subject of Pulp or on the inhabitants of Sheffield. In turn, mixing the two ends in a horrifically clumsy finale, one that does establish Jarvis Cocker as a hero of Sheffield, but not the band he fronted throughout forty years of musical history.