For how very intimate director Florian Habicht finds himself with the ensemble that makes Pulp, his documentary feature, Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets feels oddly distant. It is why that occurs that feels more important than anything else. Band members in a state of shellshock, warmly coming together for a return tour that ends in their hometown. Emotions, naturally, run high. But emotions occur in different ways. Jarvis Cocker and company do not break down into tears, they seem almost happy to see it come to a close, the tidying up at a close. That does not fit what Habicht hopes to find, so he ventures further, into the heart of Sheffield, only to find that everyone else feels much the same.
Habicht is the pioneer charting already explored territory, uncovering small mounds and proclaiming them as bigger than any one person could truly acknowledge. Old people singing Help the Aged, a brief bit of reflection with Richard Hawley on the This is Hardcore and a line about Pulp’s first album, It. That’s the lot. Habicht is so focused on digging up relics that he forgets to pair that with the concert film occurring in brief and choppy snippets around him. Cutaways to fans of the band who give brief bullet points about how Pulp impacted them, the meaningful return to the stage and how it feels to be included in music and represented by it. That much is easy to do when the right people are interviewed, but it would seem Habicht has gone out of his way to interview the generation above Cocker, Canida Doyle, Nick Banks, Steve Mackey and Mark Webber.
There is an interesting retrospective that could occur for Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets, a title that has as much to do with the rule of three it lists as it does about the history of music not just from Pulp but in Sheffield. It is an unenviable task considering the range and scope of so much history, but there can be an elegance to brevity. Habicht does try monstrously hard to make the connection between Pulp and Sheffield as clear as possible, but in doing so makes the city look like a medium-sized shrine to the band. This happens by accident, and to his credit Habicht’s work on recording the concert is fantastic. It is a crime that the full footage is yet to release, and it may never.
Instead, there are snippets of a golden moment littered throughout as though Pulp were a catalyst for Sheffield rather than it being the other way around. Only one wrote a song about the other, and it certainly wasn’t Sheffield. Cocker comes across as a bloke trying to say something wise and mysterious, but at the same time that is the last thing on his mind. Banks and Doyle prove for some small pockets of interest, but that is away from what Habicht is attempting to create here. This vision of Pulp as a cornerstone of Sheffield, not their music scene, but as the city itself. A city reliant on its creativity. It is wishful thinking, but Habicht doesn’t get the blend quite right, focusing more on the mega fans and Cocker-obsessed than on the band they love to see.