The Couch Surfer: 'No Distance isn't a music film – it's a love story with a killer soundtrack'

Tim Walker: 'The filmmakers had something Blur’s previous chroniclers did not: a completed narrative arc'

Until last summer, the story of Blur had a melancholy ending.

The band's sad, messy disintegration was well documented, and its former members comfortably ensconced in new careers as solo artists, writers or aspiring politicians. Then, in late 2008, came the news that Blur would reform for a pair of vast, valedictory gigs in Hyde Park. Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace, two young filmmakers with a history of Blur fandom, seized the opportunity to make No Distance Left to Run, a documentary that combines a tour diary with the history of the band's rise and fall and rise. If you haven't made it to one of the late-night cinema screenings, fear not – it's out on DVD next month.

No Distance is entirely about life inside Blur. There are no talking heads besides the band members. There's little of the music-historical context of Britpop documentary Live Forever, and even less of the political background of John Harris's Britpop book The Last Party. It's nothing like as warts-and-all as bassist Alex James's own memoir Bit of A Blur, which detailed more scientifically the sheer volume of drinking and shagging undertaken by the band in their pomp. But Southern and Lovelace have something that the band's previous chroniclers did not: the gift of a completed narrative arc. Their film is not so much a music documentary as a story of heterosexual male love rekindled, to a killer soundtrack.

After the first flush of success, superstardom weighed heavy on the four Essex boys. At their most famous, during the Great Escape years, they were also at their least happy. Frontman Damon Albarn had panic attacks, guitarist Graham Coxon was an alcoholic, drummer Dave Rowntree was in the throes of a horrid divorce, and Alex... well, Alex was in Fat Les. When relations between Damon and Graham broke down, the final Blur album, 2003's Think Tank, was recorded sans guitarist. The film's footage of the now-derelict Walthamstow Stadium – which provided album artwork and a launch venue for Parklife – mirrors the group's own dilapidation.

No Distance, however, has a final act, in which the band members reform, reforge their friendships, and play the last and best Blur gigs of their career, rendered here at a stunning, slow-motion 100 frames per second. As well as the music footage, there are some super archive finds, like the dressing room scene following a Modern Life Is Rubbish-era gig, in which Graham's burgeoning drink problem is apparent. Or the hilariously pretentious Goldsmith's student who represents everything Graham found "rubbish" about art school.

The documentarians tend to flaunt the access they've been afforded by making other journalists look a bit silly; one poor music hack points his dictaphone at the band and presents his conceit for a forthcoming article, drawing nothing but grunts and blank stares. Yet that access rarely reveals anything a committed Blurite doesn't know already: that Damon's disdain for American grunge gave birth to Britpop; that Graham's disdain for the term 'Britpop' and the teenyboppers it attracted gave birth to self-loathing.

Still, the characters shine through, providing some disarming low-key moments, like Damon being distracted by the looming visage of Will Self in the front row at a warm-up gig, or Graham checking there'll be "a couple of Crunchies" in the band's rider. Damon complains that wherever he went in 1996, people played Oasis on their stereos – which is actually pretty funny if you imagine it as a recurring sketch from The Fast Show. Dave, the quiet man of the bunch, charmingly describes his reverse mid-life crisis: "Most merchant bankers think they're wasting their life and why on Earth didn't they become a rock star. I decided what I was born to do was become a lawyer or an MP."

After a triumphant headline slot at the Glastonbury Festival, the cameras surreptitiously capture Damon overcome with emotion backstage. But Graham, who admits hiding from his bandmate after spotting him at London Zoo before their reconciliation, is the one you'll want to hug afterwards.

If you're not a massive Blur fan, No Distance may be of only passing interest. But, as last summer proved, there are still plenty of massive Blur fans out there. And this film, hagiographic as it is, well deserves to win over some new ones. Listening to those nostalgic echoes of "Tender", "Tracy Jacks", "Beetlebum" and "For Tomorrow" certainly sent me scurrying straight home to my CD collection.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone