Skip to main content

I remember smashing his head in with a cricket bat, yeah.

Supersonic
(2016)

One of the best things about BBC4 is the engrossing documentaries about singers or bands you aren’t remotely interested in but whose rock ’n’ roll lifestyle makes for an inevitably fascinating story. I was never remotely into Oasis at the time – I’ll admit to considering a couple of their tunes could be classed as “decent” – and as a result I became a de facto Blur advocate in the Oasis vs Blur debate (that, and the later Gorillaz showed Albarn was much more than a one-trick pony, even if the new album is a bit suspect). So Supersonic is pretty interesting, although it would probably be more so if it covered more than their first three years, after which Noel’s creative well dried up, the sibling feuding became ever more repercussive, and only the diehards were proclaiming that each new album was actually, honestly, really good, like recovering Police fans stuck with Sting’s solo work.


Mostly, Mat Whitehouse’s film (co-produced by Senna and Amy director Asif Kapadia), which takes the band from their origins to the beginning-of-the-end-only-14-years-later 1996 Knebworth gig (for which, it is boasted, 4% of the population attempted to buy tickets), is worth it for Noel Gallagher’s contributions. While I’ve never much cared for the band, I’ve usually found him an entertaining and forthright raconteur, and it’s his soundbites, rather than those of his Neanderthal brother, that keep the doc chugging along.


As he says, “When I do an interview, I’m there to be a gobshite and cause as much trouble as possible”. Some of his comments are inevitably to be taken as a pinch of salt then, such as his avowal that the Knebworth gig was an end of an era for music that would become increasingly manufactured (not if you saw them as not terribly original in the first place and weren’t wowed by their euphoric success), but his view of their discovery and signing by Alan McGee as fate is quite endearing, and the insights provided into the siblings’ family (mum Peggy is interviewed) and the strife involving their estranged father add necessary context.


If Noel’s “Liam’s like a dog and I’m like a cat” is a bit fanciful, he’ll then break up the philosophising with dry sarcasm (“Liam clearly would dearly like to have my talent as a songwriter. And there’s not a day goes by when I don’t wish I could rock a parker like that man”). As for Liam himself, there’s little that makes him look good, from off his head footage to the account of how he pissed all his brother’s stereo when they shared a room. Occasionally, he’ll raise a smile (footage of a gig where he’s on the receiving end of multiple projectiles elicits a “I’m not a fucking coconut stall”) and even less often there’s a genuine revealing moment (how he’ll just be “absolutely fucking still” on stage, staring over the audience, knowing he’s in control).


The rest of the band, from those who fell out to those who didn’t (Bonehead) are very much background players, not that they’re short-changed interview-wise, but they just don’t have the same strength of personality, or healthy stock of eyebrows. As for Whitehouse’ approach, it leaves me wistful of the basics of BBC4, since there’s far too much in the way of “funny” animated accompaniment, evidencing more a concern about the narrative being insufficient to tell itself than a creative urge (this is not an uncommon problem: Jarmusch is even at it in Gimme Danger). But Supersonic is a solid piece of work and not just one for the devotees.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

They'll think I've lost control again and put it all down to evolution.

Time Bandits (1981) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam had co-directed previously, and his solo debut had visual flourish on its side, but it was with Time Bandits that Gilliam the auteur was born. The first part of his Trilogy of Imagination, it remains a dazzling work – as well as being one of his most successful – rich in theme and overflowing with ideas while resolutely aimed at a wide (family, if you like) audience. Indeed, most impressive about Time Bandits is that there’s no evidence of self-censoring here, of attempting to make it fit a certain formula, format or palatable template.

I never strangled a chicken in my life!

Rope (1948) (SPOILERS) Rope doesn’t initially appear to have been one of the most venerated of Hitchcocks, but it has gone through something of a rehabilitation over the years, certainly since it came back into circulation during the 80s. I’ve always rated it highly; yes, the seams of it being, essentially, a formal experiment on the director’s part, are evident, but it’s also an expert piece of writing that uses our immediate knowledge of the crime to create tension throughout; what we/the killers know is juxtaposed with the polite dinner party they’ve thrown in order to wallow in their superiority.

Oh, you got me right in the pantaloons, partner.

The Party (1968) (SPOILERS) Blake Edwards’ semi-improvisational reunion with Peter Sellers is now probably best known for – I was going to use an elephant-in-the-room gag, but at least one person already went there – Sellers’ “brown face”. And it isn’t a decision one can really defend, even by citing The Party ’s influence on Bollywood. Satyajit Ray had also reportedly been considering working with Sellers… and then he saw the film. One can only assume he’d missed similar performances in The Millionairess and The Road to Hong Kong ; in the latter case, entirely understandable, if not advisable. Nevertheless, for all the flagrant stereotyping, Sellers’ bungling Hrundi V Bakshi is a very likeable character, and indeed, it’s the piece’s good-natured, soft centre – his fledgling romance with Claudine Longet’s Michele – that sees The Party through in spite of its patchy, hit-and-miss quality.

I'm an old ruin, but she certainly brings my pulse up a beat or two.

The Paradine Case (1947) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock wasn’t very positive about The Paradine Case , his second collaboration with Gregory Peck, but I think he’s a little harsh on a picture that, if it doesn’t quite come together dramatically, nevertheless maintains interest on the basis of its skewed take on the courtroom drama. Peck’s defence counsel falls for his client, Alida Valli’s accused (of murder), while wife Ann Todd wilts dependably and masochistically on the side-lines.

You must have hopes, wishes, dreams.

Brazil (1985) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam didn’t consider Brazil the embodiment of a totalitarian nightmare it is often labelled as. His 1984½ (one of the film’s Fellini-riffing working titles) was “ the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984 ”, in contrast to Michael Anderson’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from 1948. This despite Gilliam famously boasting never to have read the Orwell’s novel: “ The thing that intrigues me about certain books is that you know them even though you’ve never read them. I guess the images are archetypal ”. Or as Pauline Kael observed, Brazil is to Nineteen Eighty-Four as “ if you’d just heard about it over the years and it had seeped into your visual imagination ”. Gilliam’s suffocating system isn’t unflinchingly cruel and malevolently intolerant of individuality; it is, in his vision of a nightmare “future”, one of evils spawned by the mechanisms of an out-of-control behemoth: a self-perpetuating bureaucracy. And yet, that is not really, despite how indulgently and glee

Miss Livingstone, I presume.

Stage Fright (1950) (SPOILERS) This one has traditionally taken a bit of a bruising, for committing a cardinal crime – lying to the audience. More specifically, lying via a flashback, through which it is implicitly assumed the truth is always relayed. As Richard Schickel commented, though, the egregiousness of the action depends largely on whether you see it as a flaw or a brilliant act of daring: an innovation. I don’t think it’s quite that – not in Stage Fright ’s case anyway; the plot is too ordinary – but I do think it’s a picture that rewards revisiting knowing the twist, since there’s much else to enjoy it for besides.

A herbal enema should fix you up.

Never Say Never Again (1983) (SPOILERS) There are plenty of sub-par Bond s in the official (Eon) franchise, several of them even weaker than this opportunistic remake of Thunderball , but they do still feel like Bond movies. Never Say Never Again , despite – or possibly because he’s part of it – featuring the much-vaunted, title-referencing return of the Sean Connery to the lead role, only ever feels like a cheap imitation. And yet, reputedly, it cost more than the same year’s Rog outing Octopussy .

Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know, if you ripped the fronts off houses, you'd find swine? The world's a hell. What does it matter what happens in it?

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) (SPOILERS) I’m not sure you could really classify Shadow of a Doubt as underrated, as some have. Not when it’s widely reported as Hitchcock’s favourite of his films. Underseen might be a more apt sobriquet, since it rarely trips off the lips in the manner of his best-known pictures. Regardless of the best way to categorise it, it’s very easy to see why the director should have been so quick to recognise Shadow of a Doubt 's qualities, even if some of those qualities are somewhat atypical.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

I think you’re some kind of deviated prevert.

Dr. Strangelove  or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) (SPOILERS) Kubrick’s masterpiece satire of mutually-assured destruction. Or is it? Not the masterpiece bit, because that’s a given. Rather, is all it’s really about the threat of nuclear holocaust? While that’s obviously quite sufficient, all the director’s films are suggested to have, in popular alt-readings, something else going on under the hood, be it exposing the ways of Elite paedophilia ( Lolita , Eyes Wide Shut ), MKUltra programming ( A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket ), transhumanism and the threat of imminent AI overlords ( 2001: A Space Odyssey ), and most of the aforementioned and more besides (the all-purpose smorgasbord that is The Shining ). Even Barry Lyndon has been posited to exist in a post-reset-history world. Could Kubrick be talking about something else as well in Dr. Strangelove ?