Live Forever

on May 15, 2003 by Chris Wiegand
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Named for a hit single from indie rockers Oasis, “Live Forever” documents the short-lived musical phenomenon known as Britpop. Initially engaging, yet never as incisive as it would like to be, the film will strike a chord with British viewers (especially those in their 20s and 30s) yet may struggle to attract American audiences unfamiliar with the subject material.

A quick history lesson: After being dominated by American rock in general--and grunge in particular--the UK's music charts were stormed in the early '90s by a bunch of homegrown bands whose very ‘Britishness' formed an integral part of their appeal. While their styles often varied considerably--from Suede's fey posturing and Blur's cheeky appeal to the brash antics of Oasis and the breathy theatrics of Pulp--these groups were quickly lumped together under the ‘Britpop' banner.

John Dower's film charts the progress of such bands and the part they played in the birth of ‘Cool Britannia' (the moniker given to a newly self-confident nation enjoying a creative and political renaissance). Manipulated by the media, this hip new Union Jack-wrapped Britain became intrinsically tied up with Tony Blair's New Labour.

An undisciplined piece of filmmaking, “Live Forever” attempts to cover too much ground and as a result often feels superficial. Brit art, fashion and film are short-changed, fleetingly represented by Damien Hirst, Ozwald Boateng and “Trainspotting”--a movie with a Made In Britain soundtrack.

Nevertheless, Dower has pulled off an admirable coup in gaining fresh interviews with the leaders of pivotal Britpop bands--a hard task as many involved with the movement are now at pains to dissociate themselves from it. As ever, the Gallagher brothers provide the best value for money. Refreshingly down-to-earth--yet seated upon a rather throne-like chair--Noel tells it like it was, while Liam can't keep himself from baiting the interviewer. (His suspicion of the word ‘androgynous' is particularly comical.) Pulp's Jarvis Cocker gives a lucid, intimate account of the era while Britpop purists may question the inclusion of Bristol-based beat merchants Massive Attack. Starring Noel Gallagher, Liam Gallagher, Jarvis Cocker and Damon Albarn. Directed and written by John Dower. Produced by John Battsek. No distributor set. Documentary. Not yet rated. Running time: 80 min.

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