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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"The Beat is the Law", Sheffield, not Pulp

The Beat is the Law: Fanfare for the Common People

The extraordinary Beefeater In-Edit, the local music documentary Festival, teamed again with the San Miguel Primavera Sound, offering a highly recommendable offer of rockumentaries as another complementary activity prior to the days at the Parc of Fòrum. And in principle, the movie programmed on Monday couldn't be more engaging: a film, premiere in Barcelona, about Pulp's story? Count me in.
But unfortunately, that wasn't the case. It might be very bad advertising, or perhaps, intentionally, a way to make it more attractive for bigger audiences, but "The Beat is the Law" is not about Pulp, is about Sheffield music scene, from the 80s to middle 90's.
Director Eve Wood starts the documentary tracing a quite ambitious, for a music film, overview of how it was living in the 80s in Sheffield, not precisely the friendliest city in the world. Unemployment and few hopes for youth clashing with the Margaret Thatcher totalitarian regime, explained by the opinions of Sheffield musicians and people related with the music industry/business of the city.

Right. Among the people interviewed you'll find Pulp members Russell Senior, Candida Doyle, Nick Banks and Jarvis Cocker. And of course, you'll be hearing part of their story as a band struggling to survive, virtually not existing while the city deals with a social agony provoked by the governmental policies and then against a vibrant music scene that exclude them, until the circunstances/luck/opportunity change so much they will become the forefront of the britpop movement in the middle 90s. But this is just part of the film.

"The Beat is the Law" is also the (partial) story of Richard Hawley, of the Longpigs, of Chakk, of Rob Gordon and the Warp label, of Clock DVA, of acid house, dance and the club culture. With all that material and the cooperation of so many artists the film could have been amazing. But there's no balance on it. After almost an hour of documentary devoted to politics and the evolution of a music scene in Sheffield during the 80s, giving a lot of the film length to dance and house growing movement, Pulp reappears, almost out of the blue, for a homecoming gig. And then they headline Glastonbury in front of 80.000 people? Wood also allows the Longpigs to explain how they failed in a moment when they seemed capable of "making it" too. But again it fells so short compared with the previous hour of film. There's no real analysis of what/how/why britpop exploded. And after Glasto's performance, the film abruptly ends. So you cannot say this documents Pulp's career.

Overall, "The Beat is the Law" gives you a quite blurred image of these times. Its lack of definition and scope gives the spectactor an undefined picture, with social and historical remarks, artists and band members (some very relevant, some barely known outside UK) sharing their view on the city and music evolution. Many are interesting and engaging, but cannot help the sense it fails as a whole, as a cohesive music documentary.
SCORE: 5,5/10

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