05 October 2014 (released)
06 October 2014
Now in its 22nd year, Raindance Film Festival is Europe’s leading independent Film Festival showcasing feature films, shorts and documentaries from around the world and specialising in independent films and directorial debuts. On an uncharacteristically warm Autumnal Sunday afternoon music-news were invited down to the Piccadilly Vue to watch the premiere of this New Model Army documentary, directed by Matt Reid.
New Model Army are a unique band. For those who have never ventured to listen to an album or (more importantly) see them live it would be difficult to describe the musical force that they conjure, and the fierce loyalty and passionate love that their followers have for them. NMA have never been a mainstream band, though are probably one of the most significant 'underground' bands, that even now, in their twilight years, are drawing a new generation of fans across the world. Matt Reid seeks to capture this in his documentary, exploring how NMA have remained despite being misunderstood by so many.
The title is never explained but is taken from the French saying "L'heure entre chien et loup" and refers to the moments after sunset when the sky darkens and vision becomes unclear, making it difficult to distinguish between dogs and wolves, friends and foe (incidentally,there is a Korean film of the same title). Also taken from their recent album of the same name, it serves well to describe how many have approached NMA in their 30-plus year career - are they friend or foe?
Much of the film centred around the early birth and development of the band, challenges that hit the group during its journey as well as personal lives of the key members. This meant for much musing on the 80's and the political and social zetgeist that influenced the musical output by NMA from that era. Various old and new material and interviews with the band, fans and journalists, past and present is intertwined, including interviews with fans Phil Jupitus and Dom Joly.
Essentially it allows for a view into the head of Justin Sullivan (lead singer and co founder) and post-punk poet and artist Joolz, and their partnership. There is something fascinating and voyeuristic in having a window opened into someone's creative soul, and all the forces (of good and evil) that shape that. The film gives a tantalising glimpse into the dynamics of Joolz and Sullivan's life long relationship. Both alluding to something so much deeper and more significant than a romantic partnership. As Joolz articulated, they started a conversation on a cold night in Bradford over 30 years before when they first met, that neither of them have yet finished. Joolz's influence over NMA is explored and at times criticised, but the unanimous conclusion is that the band wouldn't be the same if it hadn't been for her presence and vision.
There are some moving moments when co founder Stuart Morrow reflects with some regret ever leaving. And the unexpected death of drummer and co-writer Rob Heaton, leaves for some poignant moments where Sullivan confesses his regrets for things said and unsaid. Though, even despite such losses (their is also home footage of the fire that gutted their studio a couple of years back that destroyed almost everything) Sullivan is keen to bury the past and move onwards - refusing to take that cliched final shot of a walk into the sunset across a windswept Cornish beach, for all the contradictions it would convey. As he achingly sings and confessed on interview - he's a workaholic, needs more time and is acutely aware that it is running out.
As a piece of filmmaking Matt Reid has managed to capture something that may ultimately only really appeal to the ardent fan. Though, by cutting out a lot of the musical history (their isn't much musing on the 90's or 00's), focusing on the relationships, tensions and what influenced the bands creativity, Reid has compiled an interesting documentary that would appeal at least in part to those who know nothing of NMAs music.