Singer hits tub for life after lone Chumbawamba hit

It’s one thing to struggle with having been a one-hit wonder, and quite another when that singular smash may have given the world the wrong impression of who you were…or just represented a time when the sale was quickly followed by a surge. These are some of the questions that concern the elders Chumbawamba the mind of frontman Dunstan Bruce in “I Get Knocked Down,” in which the singer plays the role of narrator, co-director, main subject, and putative conscience of a swept-up alt-rock generation. His intention with the movie is to fight a bit and find some redemption, assuming that being responsible for 1997’s “Tubthumping” isn’t its own eternal reward.

“I Get Knocked Down” – named after a line from the chorus of “Tubthumping”, which will be instantly familiar to almost anyone sensitive to the late 90s – quickly emerges from the door as an often intriguing, sometimes difficult to handle two cinematographic approaches. Parts of the film are fairly straightforward rock documentaries, with plenty of satisfying archival footage depicting the long rise and short-lived set of Chumbawamba, a self-proclaimed anarchist collective from Leeds who aimed to mix agitprop and pop and ended up breaking out. sneak left. politics on “Top of the Pops” and “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.”

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But the beginning and end of the film and the meaningful interludes in the middle are staged as an adaptation of a one-man (or two-man) show, with Bruce doing monologues about middle-aged angst, or being stalked by a sinister character wearing a mask inspired by the grotesque baby head on the cover of the “Tubthumping” album. This evil doppelganger with an electronically deepened voice continues to verbally torture the musician with punishing reminders of how unwanted and irrelevant he is now that he’s about 60 years old and has spent a quarter of a century with any type of profile. media. There’s not much left to subtext here as the movie asks the most obvious questions, like: He’s been knocked down! Will he get up?

Those scenic moments in which Bruce is a dapper sad bag literally confronting his inner demon are sometimes funny or incisive, but they can also feel on the forced side. And a bit of his authoritative storytelling goes a long way, when he reinforces the point that “once upon a time, I thought I could really change the world…but that was a long time ago when I was somebody.” But when the film – co-directed and produced by Emmy winner Sophie Robinson (“My Beautiful Broken Brain”) – relaxes into a more traditional documentary approach, it’s safer, if less dramatic, on one foot. . Bruce, a much dapper and handsomer man now than he’s gray than he was in his faded blonde 90s, is a very gracious host as he reunites with former Chumbawamba members to compare notes, or even visits leftist figures ranging from the filmmaker Ken Loach to elder anarcho-punk-rocker Penny Rimbaud to ask them if they or they thinks he sold his constituents by having a smash pop.

These high priests forgive him all the sins of shark jumping. Crass alum Rimbaud assures his visitor that any pop effort was worth it for when one of the Chumbawumba members took advantage of his Brit Awards appearance to make his way to the UK Deputy Prime Minister’s table John Prescott and dumping a bucket of ice water over his head, sparking outrage in British newspapers. There were other stunts that caught the eye, like getting another member on Bill Maher’s show and suggesting that working-class members should feel free to shoplift the new CD. from Chumbawamba. Perhaps the funniest archive clip is Rosie O’Donnell expressing her surprise at having had real anarchists on his previous show and didn’t even know it. For anyone who wants a real insight into the group’s life, death, and interpersonal dynamics, that would be for another documentary, though. (And Bruce did one on his own back when he was still in the band, “Well Done. Now Sod Off” from the 2000s.)

But after an understandably long section devoted to the international success of “Tubthumping,” and how what they heard as a populist anthem was understood to be basic pub singing, we really learn nothing about how the band got together. is separated, or even for sure he has. (Bruce left in 2004 and the others called him a day in 2012.) The practical questions you might have about whether he’s making a decent living from royalties and “Tubthumping” syncs, when eight members shared the copyrights, will not be covered in a film. it’s more concerned with the existential questions of Bruce.

Still, you can’t have anything less than admiration for a film in which its subject/director films himself failing to find much of a late-middle-age audience for his new venture, a band called Interrobang. “Your father would be so proud of you, yelling at people in a half-empty room!” sneers the masked figure. Better, or worse, it’s yet another real-life scene that reaches “Curb Your Enthusiasm” levels of discomfort when Bruce visits the Republic Records mogul. Avery Lipman, who was Chumbawamba’s label head in the 90s, and asks him to put on some headphones and listen to his new band. Lipman smiles as he listens to the new music, then bluffs that he’d love to hear the band live. He surely never will, and the ease with which Lipman escapes his former comrade’s confrontational terrain makes it kind of a classic music-biz-doc moment.

Bruce has it both ways, of course, packing all that self-effacement into a film whose existence undeniably represents an act of ego. Either way, his sixties musical contemporaries are bound to find something to relate to, as the Chumbawamba rocker comes across as – to quote an old ad that may or may not have crossed the pond to Leeds – the kind of Weeble who falters but won does not fall.

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