Sunday 23 October 2011

About Lawrence of Belgravia

Lawrence of Belgravia is a beautifully shot film. It's more of a portrait of an English eccentric than a straight biography. Large sections of the narrative are provided by journalists interviewing Lawrence. Despite Lawrence's often outre responses, director Paul Kelly cleverly lets the camera linger on each journalist a fraction longer than you'd expect, suggesting that maybe it's the journalists who are the bizarre characters.

This thoughtful approach to Lawrence might not satisfy Felt fans, people who value lyrical poetry, classic pop and intense intropsection but forget the downtrodden defeatism of the opening to Black Ship In The Harbour ("I was a pauper/I was second class/I was a moment/That quickly passed") or the, um, declaration in Declaration that "I will have as my epitaph the second line of Black Ship In The Harbour".

Felt lasted from 1979-89; Lawrence of Belgravia is about Lawrence from 1978- 2011. Felt are about a third of the picture, then, and the film is, rightly, a tragicomedy about a lost genius who has never quite managed to separate myth from fact or his ego from reality.

Lawrence, as the film makes clear from the publication of a medical report, has mental health issues. We're not told how serious these are, which suggests that parts of the film are, actually, more bittersweet than funny.

Of course, Lawrence is a man who wrote a song about the Rwandan genocide and called it Drinkin' Um Bongo. He is enigmatic beyond explanation; while Lawrence of Belgravia might antagonise a few Felt fans (especially those who never got to grips with either Denim or Go-Kart Mozart) it will please many more, even those with no appreciation of who Lawrence is, as a sensitive and touching portrait of an eccentric artist.

Felt fans can have Riding On The Equator, from their last ever gig (Lawrence said in the film that Felt would never reform, not even for £100,000):

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