Live Forever



UK 2003 : John DOWER : 80 mins

Entertaining and infuriating in roughly equal measure, Live Forever documents the main events in British pop between Margaret Thatcher’s resignation in 1990 and 1997’s double-whammy of epochal events: the election of Tony Blair and the death of Princess Diana. Dower combines archive footage, analysis from cultural commentators and interviews with the likes of Damon Albarn from Blur, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, Oasis’ feuding brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher, Massive Attack’s Michael (‘3-D’) Del Naja, politician Peter Mandelson, fashion-designer Ozwald Boateng, cultural commentator Jon Savage.

There’s much to criticise about this film, in which it’s often difficult to hear the music for the sound of people so enthusiastically slapping each other’s backs, and their own: “It just happened at a time when there was a lot of things going on – it was a great time!” . “I had a fucking great time” . “For a while we all had a lot of fun”, ad nauseam. And, as with so many features examining supposedly radical and innovative subjects (Dogtown and Z-Boys, The Cockettes), the film’s own style adheres rigidly to the standard documentary format: a chronological assemblage of clips and talking heads, with far too little attempt to apply the lessons of the recent past to the present situation.

Luckily, Live Forever‘s talking heads more than compensate for the film’s many shortcomings. Cocker is a typically reliably waspish, self-deprecating apercus, but it’s Noel Gallagher who steals the movie with what amounts to a terrific comic ‘performance’: brutally honest, savagely intelligent and refreshingly objective about his own prior mis-steps. On this evidence, 82 minutes of Gallagher would have been, if anything, preferable to actual end product assembled by Dower and his editor Jake Martin – he even manages to bring the ‘debate’ up to date: “Everything’s choreographed now – it’s fucking rubbish,” he snorts as we see one of the current manufactured ‘bands’ in action. And it’s hard to disagree – regardless how much Live Forever smacks of decadent, cosy nostalgia, who could resist a film that effectively positions Robbie Williams as the Antichrist, with the S Club Juniors his foul minions?

8th March, 2003
(seen 24th January, Warner Village, Ellesmere Port)

by Neil Young