No Distance Left To Run
Parlophone (5099960974495) DVD
by John Curley
Directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace have crafted one of the best music documentaries in recent years with their film about the British band Blur, which is titled No Distance Left To Run. (The film is named after a 1999 Blur single.) Deftly mixing archive footage with new interviews and rehearsal and performance footage shot during the band’s 2009 reunion, Southern and Lovelace tell the story of Blur completely. From the band’s humble beginnings to Britpop superstardom to Graham Coxon’s contentious exit to the band’s joyful 2009 reunion, Blur’s full story, warts and all, is covered. The band (lead vocalist Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James, and drummer Dave Rowntree) are very open and honest in the interview segments. Albarn pulls no punches in discussing his panic attacks during the height of the band’s fame. And Albarn’s hurt at Coxon’s 2002 departure from Blur is still evident in his comments about it. Coxon likened that time in the band’s history to being like an episode of VH1’s Behind The Music.
There seemed to be a feeling among the four band members that they had unfinished business after the way that Blur had petered out following Coxon’s exit. So their 2009 reunion was a joyful one. Their happiness at working together again is evident in every second of the new footage, from the rehearsals to the interviews to the gig footage. Albarn even spoke of what a privilege it was to play with Blur at Glastonbury and he claimed that the 2009 reunion shows were the best that Blur had ever done. My only criticism of the DVD release of the film is that there are no extras apart from the film’s trailer. The gig at the Colchester Railway Museum (which was the site of their first show in 1989) and the in-store appearance at the Rough Trade record shop in London both seemed spectacular from the brief footage of each shown in the film. Including additional footage from those performances as extras on the DVD would’ve enhanced it even more.
Particularly interesting are the revelations of how Blur’s unhappy 1992 tour of America and the rise of grunge in the UK led the band to more fully embrace its British heritage and indirectly led to the birth of the Britpop movement. James even credits Albarn directly with inventing Britpop through his songs on the Blur’s 1993 album, Modern Life Is Rubbish. Also fascinating were the discussions of the 1995 battle for the top of the UK singles chart that pitted Blur’s “Country House” against “Roll With It” by Oasis. Blur went on to win that battle. Still, the pressure from that time took a toll on the band. Albarn likened Oasis to the bullies that he knew at school. Coxon spoke quite candidly about the emotional turmoil that the Britpop hysteria caused for the band as well as his displeasure with the teenyboppers that had taken to following the band in the wake of the Britpop hype.
It is to Southern’s and Lovelace’s credit that there were able to get the members of Blur to be so candid about their feelings on being in the band and about one another. After all of the band’s ups and downs are discussed, it is quite a treat to witness the euphoric footage from Blur’s set at Glastonbury and their shows at London’s Hyde Park. While the film shows how well Blur perform together, it also reveals the glue that holds them together as friends. The smiles that they exchange on the stage at Hyde Park seem very genuine indeed.
It’s too bad that Blur did not bring their reunion tour to America. But if this is the last that we hear from Blur, the members of the band can be very proud of how it ended. They can also take pride in the fact that the story of their triumphant reunion has made for one fantastic music documentary.
The DVD package also includes a second disc that features Blur’s full performance at Hyde Park on July 2, 2009. The concert film was directed by Giorgio Testi. Its inclusion in the DVD package adds an exclamation point to the documentary and further explains why the reunion of Blur was such a great event in British music last year. Particularly enjoyable was their performance of “Parklife” with the actor Phil Daniels, who did the spoken-word bits on the 1994 original recording of the song and appeared in the “Parklife” video. Other highlights include “There’s No Other Way,” “Country House,” “Song 2,” and the antiwar song “Out of Time.” The Hyde Park show is ecstatic from beginning to end. It is difficult to tell who was happier to be there—the band or the audience. The utter glee seemed mutual, and the show is a pleasure to watch.
No Distance Left To Run clocks in at 98 minutes. The Hyde Park concert film has a running time of 126 minutes. The DVD is not rated but does include some strong language.