Wednesday, 4 May 2011

I Like... Access All Areas / The Libertines – There Are No Innocent Bystanders

The glittering embers of hope for a Libertines reunion were simultaneously stoked and dashed last week at the premier screening of ‘The Libertines – There Are No Innocent Bystanders’ as part of the East End Film Festival. All four members were billed for attendance, but alas Pete Doherty was noticeably and sorely absent, which perhaps acted as the catalyst for Carl Barât’s dismissive answers to questions of the band working together again beyond their appearance on the red carpet that night. Barât being put into awkward situations and corners would turn out to be a motif for the film itself as well.

The Libertines’ long time photographer Roger Sargent (who provided all the shots for ‘The Libertines Bound Together’) filmed the band during their phase of cuteness and cuddles as they announced their reformation for the Reading and Leeds festival 2010, their rehearsals and also sat them down individually for some frank interviews. Throughout the narrative of the band’s reunion are snapshots of their origins. But alas, Barât is made to stroll down memory lane alone, visiting the sites of their glorious and debauched past. Why the rest of the band couldn’t, or didn’t, join him to visit the infamous Albion Rooms, the alley where they filmed the video for ‘Up The Bracket’, which has since become a place of homage for Libertines fans and is decorated with lyrics and messages of adulation and appreciation, is left to be pondered.

Equally awkward is the light that Pete Doherty casts his fellow frontman in. When questioned about his drug use, that lead to his ejection from the band and their subsequent demise, Doherty retorts, unfazed, that if Carl had simply asked him to stop taking drugs, then he would have. Unfortunately even the most compelling of friendships is no match for deadly addictions – a biological fact which Doherty seems frighteningly unaware of. Cut to an exasperated Barât who gives his touching and truthful opposition to the lure of heroin.

But aside from the Class A kitchen sink drama, there are numerous more warming and personable elements to the film; Pete strolling down the street sipping from a jug of Pimms, Carl inviting his doctor, who evidently has never heard of The Libertines, to watch the band play, and John Hassall keeping up the image of being lucky to have been caught up in the storm as he admits he gained his place in the band by the virtue of owning numerous guitars, which proved all too irresistible to the starry eyed duo living next door to a brothel. Plus footage of the band carefully crafting their setlist and their endless pacing up and down the dressing room before their warm-up gig at The Forum shows that they do truly care about what they’re doing, and the fans they are doing it for. Sargent’s candid access to the band creates the same stomach altering feeling of precarious excitement which pervaded the festival crowds waiting for them back in August.

As ever, the question is still ‘What next?’ Well, according to Pete Doherty, he’s ready to get the band back together at the drop of a Trilby, it’s just Carl holding them back – once more laying responsibility and blame right on his doorstep. As Pete’s no-show exemplified, The Libertines are still as fraught and fractured as ever, and certainty about them evades even this access-all-areas documentary.

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