Director Dunstan Bruce’s new film ‘A Curious Life” offers the audience an interesting view of the music business.
In my opinion a good music documentary is still fascinating for a viewer despite him or her not being an avid fan of the musicians in question. Thankfully this is something that Dunstan Bruce’s new film, about the band The Levellers, achieves admirably.
It is something of a cliché to claim that a band is “doing it on their own terms” but, as Bruce’s film shows, this is highly applicable to The Levellers and the way they pursued their career.
In fact, if there is a director who knows a thing or two about carving a musical career outside of the mainstream it is Bruce, whose experience as long-time member of anarchist band Chumbawamba one suspects helped him get access to the inner workings of the Levellers’ world.
“I can do whatever I like, but the most interesting thing about me is that I’m in The Levellers,” offers Jeremy Cunningham, the bands bass player and the character that Bruce cleverly centres the film around.
Eccentric, charming and hilarious, both intentionally and unintentionally, Cunningham is a character full of contradictions who in his own words has a “big ego combined with low self-esteem”.
It is to Cunningham’s credit that he allows the film to show him ‘warts and all’ and as a result becomes a character that the viewer warms to greatly. Whether it is talking about his drug dependency problems, feeding seagulls cat food or sending some rather unmentionable items to the offices of the New Musical Express, it becomes obvious that this is not a conventional rock and roll life story. At times, and especially when Bruce interviews Cunningham’s parents, it would be easy to forget that he is a founder member of a hugely successful band with six gold albums to their name.
If there is any miscalculation with the film it is that perhaps the middle third becomes a little more like a band history rather than sticking with Cunningham but in fairness, the rest of the band are no less interesting and you do not have to be a particular fan of the band to find their insights fascinating.
As a viewer you leave this film admiring how such an eclectic group of individuals have managed to achieve such a degree of longevity in such a fickle business, and you will admire them all the more for it. As Cunningham comments, their career has become a balancing act “between playing new stuff and the fans wanting us to play old stuff” and with that in mind this reviewer wishes this group of unusual music business stalwarts all the best.
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