In the early to mid-1990s, the moribund British music scene was enlivened by the rise of “Britpop”. Bands such as Oasis, Blur and Pulp not only headed the most widely successful new movement in British pop music for more than a decade, but also were seen as emblematic of changes in British society as a whole, with the imminent defeat of the ruling Conservative party and the rise of “Cool Britannia”. Years later, some of the chief participants and observers of the scene recall these heady days and reflect on their significance.
Review by Jake Wilson:
Watchable as it is, Live Forever might as well be called ‘Britpop For Dummies’ - someone’s been twiddling the colour-balance knobs in the video-editing suite, but despite the visual flourishes it’s a routine ‘talking heads’ documentary, lacking sustained analysis or a personal point of view. Novices will learn little about the music as such, and the filmmakers hesitate between mythologising a supposed cultural sea-change and suggesting that the phenomenon was largely the result of media hype (nearly everyone refers to the grey eminence of Britain’s music press, the NME, in tones of awed loathing).
Unlike punk or even grunge, Britpop was more a reflection of shared attitudes than a rebellion against them - the peculiar flavour of Oasis, Blur and others stems from a tension between ‘lad’ swagger and a defensive, typically British fascination with pastiche and the mundane. But while there may be spiritual affinities with the ‘pragmatic idealism’ of New Labour, it’s unsurprising that few of the interviewees now have a good word to say for Tony Blair, visible here as a grotesque, simpering puppet desperate to align himself with ‘yoof’.
To fans, Live Forever will appeal mainly as a greatest-hits collection and for its interviews with the heroes of the hour, each framed (as if for a magazine cover) within a ‘characteristic’ environment. Morose nerd-dandy Jarvis Cocker crouches on a bed and skulks behind his glasses, looking like a teenage Bugs Bunny as he whines about how pop stardom ruined his life (a far cry from the effete cool he displays in performance). Noel Gallagher sits in his stately home and smirks through a discussion of his working-class roots; brother Liam lazily pouts at the camera. Damon Albarn is sour and self-justifying from his stool in a London pub. All these guys reminisce about old wounds and glories with uneasy bluster - as though they still want to believe they stood for something, even if they’re not too sure what.
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LIVE FOREVER (M15+)
CAST: Documentary with Noel Gallagher, Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn and others
PRODUCER: John Battsek
DIRECTOR: John Dower
SCRIPT: John Dower
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Frederic Fabre
EDITOR: Jake Martin
MUSIC: Liz Gallagher
PRODUCTION DESIGN: not credited
RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto Entertainment
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: October 2, 2003