Homecoming: Florian Habicht on his Pulp documentary

As Pulp: a Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets comes to DVD, we hear from its director Florian Habicht

It’s a surprise that there hasn’t been a feature film made of Britain’s most narratively cinematic band, Pulp, but this year came A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets, which is at once a document of Jarvis Cocker and co’s homecoming concert of 2012, and a quirky love letter to Sheffield and its inhabitants.

Directed by Florian Habicht with an affection for the honest and unusual that one has come to expect from the German-born New Zealander, this portrait spreads its time equally between the band (all of whom have their say) and their fans (some of them unexpected). Those who saw Habicht’s little-seen gem Love Story will have a good idea of what to expect from this quixotic music doc.

The Skinny: Were you a Pulp fan before making the film?
Florian Habicht: Oh yes, definitely. They were one of my favourite bands.

How did the film come together – did you approach the band or did the band approach you?
I was in New York when I found out my film Love Story had been selected for the London Film Festival and one of my first thoughts was, Who can I invite? And then I had an idea to invite Pulp and for them to see the film at the festival. When I arrived in London I found out that Jarvis was going to come and check out the film and meet up, but I think I had the plan (for making the film) right from the start.

Cocker must have seen something in you and your film Love Story as he’s very cine-literate, and has worked with the filmmaker Martin Wallace for years. They recently collaborated on the Sheffield archive film The Big Melt for instance…
I think what attracted them is that Love Story is not a conventional film and I think the reason they haven’t made a film about the band yet is because they didn’t want to do a conventional type of film. The other reason is that Jarvis and I were both interested in other types of people and their lives.

Had you ever been to Sheffield before?
I had been through Sheffield on the train to Manchester but I had never been. As we passed through it I thought, Ahh, this is where Pulp’s from. From their songs I did have an image of what Sheffield would be like in my imagination, but it was completely different.

Do you think people who aren’t fans of Pulp will enjoy your film?
I would like to think that it’s a piece of cinema and people could enjoy it who aren’t necessarily the biggest Pulp fans. I know some people who have seen the film have become Pulp fans, and that was my hope while making it. The balance was very fine while shooting and editing because you have to please Pulp fans but we wanted a film that would be interesting for non-Pulp fans too.

You have some amazing characters in the film – how did you find them?
It was actually just bumping into people because we didn’t really have time to do research or auditions. We were helped by our sound guy though who found some of the singing groups in the film but the one-on-one characters I found by wandering the streets of Sheffield – kind of like Love Story.

Who came up with the concept for the film? Was it yours, or a collaboration with Jarvis and the band?
It was a very healthy collaboration: basically the first conversation I had with Jarvis we told each other our ideas for a Pulp film. He always had a distinct idea for a film but thought he didn’t have time to organise it, so luckily both of our ideas had something in common about the people and place of Sheffield. We did not want to tell the Pulp story chronologically; the Michael Jackson incident, the story of the breakthrough. Our thinking was if people wanted that they should go to Wikipedia or on YouTube. We both were striving for a different film.

Could Pulp have come from any other city?
I don’t think they could have come from anywhere else. By making the film I discovered a taste of Sheffield and its people and Pulp are definite Sheffielders. The whole film is quite understated, which is a very Sheffield thing, combined with their sense of humour.

The film had its premiere at SXSW in Austin – how did it go down there?
It was very cool. Steve Mackey and Jarvis attended with me. I was quite overwhelmed by the response of the audience. I think the public from Sheffield who are in the film have big hearts and the audience didn’t expect that I think.

Is Love Story going to get released in the UK?
I’ve had offers for VOD releases but I don’t want the film to disappear. So I’m going to wait until the Pulp film comes out and then Love Story will have a better chance.

Pulp: A Film About Life, Death, And Supermarkets is released on double disc DVD 14 Jul

http://www.PulpTheFilm.com

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