Lawrence of Belgravia : film about Laurence from Felt : a review

Lawrence looks east

It’s actually taken a while for “Lawrence of Belgravia,” a well-made, perfectly nuanced documentary film by Paul Kelly following Lawrence of Felt, Denim and Go-Kart Mozart to reach Nottingham (and even longer for it to get made), but rest assured Kelly’s confident feature is, for those reading in other cities yet to receive this film, worth the wait.

One of the biggest reasons for this is perhaps Kelly’s determination to make a documentary that didn’t feel like one; that stood apart from the recent crop. Talking in the Broadway cinema, I told him about a conversation I’d had with “Anyone Can Play Guitar,” director Jon Spira in which I’d asked Jon if I thought we were living in a golden age of music documentary film and Jon had simply said that it felt that there were to many ”“ that anyone with half a story to tell was getting it made. Kelly agrees with him, and prefers to see “Lawrence of Belgravia,” as a kind of character film instead. “My favourite music documentaries are ones like ”˜The Devil and Daniel Johnston,’” he tells me, and this character-study effect is reflected in “Lawrence of Belgravia.” It helps, of course, that Lawrence is an engaging, entertaining character who deserves his own film. Kelly is a complete master of editing and filming- years worth of footage condensed into ninety perfectly placed minutes, a long-lens camera shot to close ”“ but nothing detracts from Lawrence as a character.

Refreshingly honest as he talks about his yearning for a fame that never quite was, in some ways it makes him seem like a perfect representative of this fame-obsessed culture, determined to keep on at giving things another go (“I could be the first pop star pensioner,” he states at one point), but he is far to out of the ordinary to ever truly represent any kind of mass thought.

Felt were the first band of their kind that I truly fell in love with, aged about twelve, and the one that would open up my world to their whole genre and era, but by then they were already long gone, so clearly in spite of their lack of commercial success, Lawrence knows how to write music which endures. “I know you were frustrated with your lack of commercial success, but were you aware you were writing what would go on to be classics?” I asked him. “Oh, absolutely,” he tells me, straight on. Coming from the era of the unabashed, Lawrence is under no illusions of the impact his bands have had, even if the it is on a decidedly low number. As a devotee of the Velvet Underground, he should understand this pretty well!

As a fantastic piece of filmmaking which has won Paul Kelly commissions from the BFI, “Lawrence of Belgravia,” should do what any good film has done and spark fresh interest in its subject. I can see a Felt and Denim revival on the horizon ”“ and hopefully the proposed Go-Kart Mozart tour will draw in the punters.

Perhaps as a consequence of veering onto to many different tangents when I was chatting to Paul and some of the other viewers, including former members of Biff Bang Pow! (sharing mutual friends, etc), or perhaps because of the time Lawrence spent with other fans and viewers, Lawrence and I ran slightly short on time. Rather than just leaving it, he gave me Cherry Red’s phone number to call him on in a couple of weeks time, so there will be a follow-up interview.

But, to conclude for now, “Lawrence of Belgravia,” is well worth a watch. My favourite bit? When a bemused Lawrence gains a few octaves of incredulity in his voice upon finding out that an internet-published journalist interviewing him is unpaid. “So you don’t get paid AT ALL? You’re in it for the love of it. God, I always knew it was shit, the internet”¦”

I’m another one in it for the love of it, Lawrence. Nights like this make it totally worth it.

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  1. Nice article Amy, I was at the Nottingham Q&A too & was surprised at (i) how gentle & self-effacing a gent Lawrence appeared to be, & (ii) how starstruck I was when he entered the room after the film! Honestly, I felt like a 12 year old Donny Osmond fan when I approached him to get my Go Kart Mozart 7″ signed – though I’m sure L would secretly approve of that, he admits he (still) craves pop star adulation after all!

    The documentary itself is pretty good, though I felt it asked as many questions as it answered, & perhaps skirted too many pivotal issues in L’s post-Denim history. Fingers crossed, some of this will be addressed on the DVD…?

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