First Look Pictures // 2003 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Gutierrez (Retired) // July 31st, 2004
For something claiming to live forever, it certainly didn't last very long.
To me, the purest form of Rock n' Roll is when it's angry, loud, and a reaction to crap conditions of life. In Britain, the great rockers of the '50s were influenced by American artists and used the music as an outlet to recover from World War II. We're lucky, in the States. Not many of us had to experience bombs hitting our streets.
Like all things, music cycles. After Rock, we had Disco. Then we had Metal, followed by Grunge. Then Bubblegum Pop reared its ugly head and it was Hanson/Spice Girls time. However, a few British bands took full advantage of Grunge music's last gasps. Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop examines the alpha and omega of a handful of bands. The documentary argues the Brit Pop phenomenon can be split up into three acts: It all begins with the 1990 Stone Roses Merseyside Concert, peaks with the Blur/Oasis rivalry five years later, and ends when Oasis releases Be Here Now. (Did this bother George Harrison, I wonder? I'd be pissed.) From Nirvana's affect on British music, to Robbie William's career climb, for almost an hour and a half we're shown how it all happened.
Since this doc is looking back at a phenomenon, much of the film's presentation is through interviews, including Oasis' charming brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher, Blur (and now Gorillaz) frontman Damon Albarn, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, John Savage the music critic, and two members of the Oasis cover band, Wonderwall. The film uses their accounts, archived concert footage, and music videos for its Brit Pop saga.
Interviews with musicians are always interesting. Remember, these are the people that say it with music because they often have a hard time articulating things any other way. Most entertaining were the Gallagher Brothers. Interviewed separately, they both recount their memories with poorly hidden moments of regret and bitterness. Damon Albarn struck me as bored throughout, as though he had something more interesting to do. He's not the cheery guy featured in the Country House video. Jarvis Cocker was probably the most level headed of the musicians interviewed. Cigarette in hand, he seemed to be the only one featured who managed to make the most of things and survive unscathed. I love that John Savage. Coming across as a savvier and less threatening English version of Kurt Loder, Savage knows what's what. Although a bit long winded at times, he's worth giving a careful listen.
Outside of what I see on Headline News, I'm not too familiar with the political climate of Britain. According to the documentary, Margaret Thatcher was responsible for some dark, oppressive times. The look and feel of Britannia was changing during the '90s, its music reflexively so. Director John Dower claims the change from Thatcher to the less stiff John Major helped to usher in this new age of music. So much so in fact, Oasis' key songwriter hung out with Major on one noteworthy occasion. It's good to remember that politics affect music. Unfortunately, it's these same politics that allow free trade and Celine Dion's career to invade our borders.
In America, I think we forget how much other countries can tire of us. Britain was no exception. Part of this music was forging a new musical identity and rejecting American culture. I guess not everyone wants a Starbucks and a McDonald's on every corner. Remember when it was hip to be British? I still love Emma Peel.
Technically speaking, the picture quality was all over the place. Sometimes the footage looks fantastic, yet other times ends up looking washed out and dirtied. I can't fault the film for this. Even the concert footage looks and sounds terrible. Although, the documentary sounds great. As it should, given its subject matter.
Special features included a couple of trailers -- including one for The Mayor of Sunset Strip! If you're a John Savage fan, watch the hour of footage that didn't make the film. It was tedious for me, but how many of us can sit and watch a man talk for an hour? The final special feature is a video diary of the tribute group Wonderwall on tour. It's a disappointment. All the interesting material is recapped through title cards. All the unruly behavior takes place off-screen. Unless you enjoy seeing Englishmen drink, drive, and urinate, skip it. You'll be glad you did.
Music documentaries are often difficult to pull off. Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop does an adequate job of telling its story. There are plenty more bands to cover inside and outside of England and I'd liked to have seen more of them. It was an interesting time in the world of music and makes for an interesting subject to tackle. Still, I'd say this film is best left for the fans. Give it a rent.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Gutierrez; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Bonus Interview Footage
* Wonderwall Diary