Lawrence of Belgravia
Intimate and touching documentary about the eccentric Felt frontman
Lawrence - surnameless former front man of the variably appreciated 80s-90s indie bands Felt and Denim, and current leader of the barely-appreciated-at-all Go Kart Mozart – is a bit like the picture in Jarvis Cocker’s attic, psychologically speaking. He’s what happens if all your early genius doesn’t earn you the status of a musical institution; if the mainstream never decides to adopt you as one of its pet eccentrics; if your meltdowns and comebacks all happen without press attention and a budget for fancy rehab.
This intimate doc acknowledges both the man’s brilliance and his delusions, so emphasising the slenderness of the line that divides success from failure and creation from self-destruction. The uninitiated might regret the fact that director Paul Kelly has opted not to offer up a clear run-down of Lawrence’s life and times - prior knowledge of the existence of Felt and Denim is assumed, which, if part of the point of the project is to bring the man’s genius to a wider audience, seems a touch perverse. But it’s also a choice that’s oddly in keeping with Lawrence’s own contradictory attitude to self-promotion. He still wants to be modern, popular and mainstream – ‘I’m completely obsessed with being famous,’ he says - but the realities of the modern popular mainstream confound him. At one point, talking to a French online journalist, he politely requests ‘your web number... the number of your website?’ Then, having established that the website in question earns the writer no profit, he concludes, ‘I knew it was crap, the internet. I’m not gonna do it.’ He’s also still upset about CDs ousting vinyl, for all the world as if CDs weren’t themselves an amusing anachronism by now.
Kelly’s film is both a touching portrait of a single damaged, indefatigable dreamer, and a reminder of just how swift and dizzying the recent technological and commercial shifts within the music industry have been. And even if all it does is introduce a few more people to Felt, it’s made the world a happier place.
On selected release from Fri 4 May.