Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Oasis: Supersonic In An Intriguing Blend Of Rare Footage And Common Knowledge!

The Good: Exceptional use of old footage, Some good stories, Tells a surprisingly linear and coherent narrative
The Bad: Could have used more subtitles, No genuinely new information about the band
The Basics: Oasis: Supersonic details the history of the band Oasis in a way that is interesting, if not perfect.

There are few musical groups whose works I stuck with through all of the phases of the band like Oasis. As an American in college at the time when (What's The Story) Morning Glory? (reviewed here!) was released, I was taken in by the single "Wonderwall" and I was actually surprised when one of my dormmates referred to me as a "fan" of Oasis when he broke the news to me that the band was breaking up. And yet, it was not long after when I actually did start to consider myself a fan of Oasis and even now I still have the hope that someday I might see the band in concert (which is, admittedly, unlikely given that the band has broken up again!). So, when the documentary Oasis: Supersonic hit theaters, it was with a lot of nostalgia and interest with which I sat down to it.

Opening in 1996 as Oasis arrived for its massive outdoor concert at Knebworth, the film flashes back to the origins of the band as Noel Gallagher spent his youth writing songs and getting high. Noel was a roadie in 1991 when he called home and learned that Liam was now in a band in Manchester and the band came together with Noel joining Liam's friends on the club scene. As Noel started writing new works, Liam, Bonehead, Tony McCarroll, and Guigs started to bond and refine their sound. When Noel wrote and put together "Live Together," Oasis truly gelled as its own unique band.

In 1993, Oasis was sharing recording space with Sister Lover when the all-woman group had a gig in Glasgow and invited Oasis to come and take the stage after them. Oasis rocked the club . . . in front of record exec Alan McGee. McGee approached Noel and he signed Oasis to Creation Records. From there, the band tries to cut a single (and discovers slowly that their drummer is painfully inconsistent), then Noel wrote "Supersonic" and they began the process of assembling their first album while saturating the UK concert scene. As Oasis rose in popularity, the personal relationships of the band members start to come apart and they gained an international reputation for being out of control.

Director Mat Whitecross manages to get some pretty amazing original, obscure footage from the Gallagher household and early appearances for Oasis to make the documentary impressive for any fan of the band Oasis. As other documentarians and interviewers have before him, Whitecross smartly provides subtitles for much of the dialogue in the clips, as Liam Gallagher (especially) mumbles most of his thoughts virtually incoherently. Given how much of the footage from Oasis: Supersonic comes from old film, it is somewhat surprising how good most of the documentary looks.

That said, there is a lot of crap footage in Oasis: Supersonic. There is visually random clips of the members of Oasis with voiceovers at various points. For a lot of the early footage - like Peggy Gallagher, the Gallagher brothers's mother, talking about her personal history - there are simple still photographs put up on the screen while voiceovers detail a story that is only marginally related to the visual image on the screen.

As the documentary progresses, Oasis: Supersonic starts to mix media coverage of Oasis with behind-the-scenes footage and while there is a visual discontinuity in the quality, Mat Whitecross manages to construct a surprisingly coherent narrative for the history of the band. Events like getting into a fight on a ferry are contrasted well with concert footage from the early years and media coverage of Oasis in their earliest interviews. Noel and Liam talk - in dated footage and through (presumably) new voiceovers - about their relationship in the band and their experiences of working together.

Ultimately, Oasis: Supersonic is an interesting documentary that chronicles well the early history of the band Oasis with wonderful amounts of new old footage, but surprisingly little new information. The result is a documentary that is useful for fans for the nostalgia factor or to inform those who are discovering the music of Oasis now (after the fall of the band) how the band got its start in a much more entertaining and detailed way than a Wikipedia article. But Oasis: Supersonic is hardly going to make new fans for the band and it is not a truly great documentary likely to stand the test of time.

For other movies currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Certain Women
My Blind Brother
Cardboard Boxer
The Whole Truth


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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