The Libertines: There Are No Innocent Bystanders
Director: Roger Sargent
Cast: The Libertines
Distributor: Pulse Films
Release date: 7th May 2012
I should start of this review of The Libertines: There Are No Innocent Bystanders by stating that for a time I considered myself a fairly big fan of The Libertines; I saw them numerous times at gigs of varying sizes (under 100 capacity to festivals), purchased bootleg recordings etc etc. The reason I mention this is that this review isn’t going to be an overly positive one and I think it should be said that it comes from the perspective of someone who knows enough about the band and the music to call themselves a fan.
One thing that was appealing about The Libertines when they emerged on the music scene, and subsequently found reasonable levels of success, is that there was something different about them; they were rough around the edges and had a great energy about them. It’s a shame then that none of this comes across in this documentary. It offers very little insight into the real issues surrounding the fractious relationships that came to typify the group, there’s a strong sense that the band members (particularly Carl Barat and Pete Doherty) are holding back a lot when discussing any potentially contentious areas and debutant filmmaker Roger Sargent doesn’t seem to press them enough, presumably as not too upset them and jeopardise the production. The blurb promises painfully honest interviews with the band members, but I’m not convinced it delivers that at all. Anyone who has read even a handful of interviews with the band throughout their career won’t find any revelations here.
It’s by no means a bad documentary and will appeal to the band’s sizeable following, but it will do little to draw in new fans. It was probably made with the best of intentions and it’s well shot without creating an aesthetic that would go against the image of the band that forms its subject, but the lack of edge and insight makes it little more than a celebration of a band who reunited to perform at Reading and Leeds having resisted offers to reform for the festival a year earlier.
An interesting point is raised towards the end of the film by Gary Powell, the band’s drummer. I’ll paraphrase but he says something along the lines of “…we can’t continue to be the same band, playing the same songs as it will become boring and people will move on.” I think for a lot of people this is the case; for me they were great for a time and the footage here shows there’s still a tremendous amount of energy in their performances and I will return to their albums on occasion and enjoy them, but I wouldn’t be excited at the prospect of them continuing as a band. This documentary confirmed this to me, which I suppose is contrary to its desired effect. I’m sure many others will react differently and love every minute such as the chap in the doc who described their warm up gig as “orgasmic.” I guess you had to be there.
Rating: 2.5 stars