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First Look presents
Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop (2003)

"A new generation had come of age, and they had grown up loathing and despising American mass culture, when it came to music, movies, TV, computer games."
- Toby Young

Review By: Robert Edwards   
Published: May 12, 2004

Stars: Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker, Liam Gallagher, Noel Gallagher
Other Stars: Jon Savage, Toby Young, Louise Wener
Director: John Dower

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, drug references)
Run Time: 0h1:26m:22s
Release Date: May 18, 2004
UPC: 687797106599
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ ABB+ D-

DVD Review

"London's Swinging Again!" proclaimed the March 1997 issue of UK Vanity Fair, and indeed, after almost two decades under Conservative Rule, it really was. The much-reviled Margaret Thatcher had been replaced by grey technocrat John Major in 1990, and as the Tories slowly began to lose their grip on power, Great Britain came alive again. Music, fashion, design, art—even food—all underwent their own respective renaissances, and for a few brief years, London was the coolest city on the planet.

Live Forever takes a look at the phenomenon known as BritPop, an important component of the rebirth of pop culture in the UK during the '90s. BritPop isn't exactly a musical genre, and some of its main proponents (Oasis, for example) leaned more towards rock than top 40 pablum è la the Spice Girls. But there are certain non-musical qualities—a pride in things British, a certain rejection of American mass culture, a hearkening back to classic British bands such as the Kinks or the Rolling Stones—that are useful parameters in defining it as a musical movement.

And, as with all attempts to understand and document the rise and fall of a musical movement, Live Forever has to simplify the complex interplay of social, cultural, and political factors. Director/writer John Dower wisely concentrates on a few seminal events, both musical and political, punctuating these with a timeline of the releases of some key BritPop albums. He examines the slow re-awakening of pride in all things British as the Conservatives became increasingly unpopular, and New Labour's successful strategy of aligning themselves with "youth culture," including pop music, which culminated in the Tories' ouster in 1997. Against this background, Dower posits three key events—The Stone Roses' 1990 Merseyside concert, the 1995 Blur vs. Oasis rivalry, and release of Oasis' third album—as of the beginning, zenith, and end of the movement, and the implications and importance of these milestones are examined in some detail.

Dower has drawn on an astonishing wealth of source material to create a complex and rich version of his history of BritPop. There are fairly extensive interviews with some of its key players (Damon Albarn from Blur, Liam and Noel Gallagher from Oasis, and Jarvis Cocker from Pulp), the always-perceptive music critic John Savage, and many peripheral figures. Music videos, news footage, concert footage, and publicity photos are also used as support. Most of the music will be familiar to anyone interested in British music in the '90s, but the interviews are informative and occasionally amusing. Although some of Dower's analysis is suspect (in particular, BritPop went out with a whimper, not with a bang, as he claims), this is a fascinating documentary, worthwhile for music fans in general, and essential for anyone interested in the UK music scene.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The quality of the image varies widely, based on the source materials. Many of the interviews look great, with solid color and reasonable blacks, but others (filmed in less-than-ideal lighting) are grainy. Most of the music video excerpts exhibit some grain, and in some, it's excessive and distracting. However, these flaws are probably inherent in the sources, and not a fault of the transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The two-channel Dolby sound is mostly good, with reasonable clarity and some bass. It's a flat (not surround) mix, so don't expect any activity in the surrounds.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Leo
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The trailer for Leo is presented full-frame, with good detail but undersaturated color. There are no other extras.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Live Forever is a fascinating documentary that examines the rise and fall of the 1990s musical movement known as BritPop. The wealth of source materials and examination of the many factors that contributed to the movement make it essential viewing for fans of British music and pop history.


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