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24 Hour Party People is the story of Factory Records, a defiantly
independent record label based in Manchester, England, which discovered
as influential and diverse as Joy Division and the Happy Mondays.
The film is shot in mock-documentary style and narrated by Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan), the founder of Factory. Coogan portrays Wilson's double life as music svengali and cheesy local TV reporter to brilliant comic effect. Although Brits will draw the inevitable parallels between Coogan's Wilson and his ultra-naff TV persona, Alan Partridge, Coogan actually has Wilson off to a tee. Arrogant and pompous, Cambridge-educated Wilson is master of the pseudish sound bite (when he realises they have no tickets for a concert in his nightclub, he retorts `Did they have tickets for the Sermon on the Mount? Of course they didn't, people just turned up because they knew it would be a great gig'). But he also has a perceptive eye for the zeitgeist and his vision to create the Hacienda club transformed Manchester into Madchester, for a brief time the music capital of the world.
The story really starts with an early Sex Pistols gig in Manchester, attended by only 42 people, most of whom went on to have an influence on the Manchester music scene of the next 10 years. Wilson was in the audience, together with members of the band who went on to form the brilliant post-punk pioneers Joy Division. The first part of the film is really focussed on them and their manager, the aggressive and cantankerous Rob Gretton ( played by Paddy Considine), and their producer, the irascible acid-casualty Martin Hannett (another superb cameo by Andy Serkis) - both of whom are no longer alive. Joy Division's lead singer, Ian Curtis, is portrayed so accurately by Sean Harris that it's positively eerie, and the scenes of the band playing in rundown venues seem remarkably true to life and capture effectively the rawness and intensity of their live performances. The film also deals, rather insensitively, with the death of Curtis, who's feet we see swinging after he has strung himself up on a rope in his house. This segues uncomfortably into a town crier announcing his death to the world, and ends with scenes showing Curtis's body in a coffin at the crematorium.
From then on, the story continues with Joy Division's reincarnation as New Order and the building of the Hacienda nightclub, and the sometimes disastrous business decisions made by Wilson and Factory. When New Order released Blue Monday, the record sleeve was so expensive to produce they lost money on every copy sold. The single went on to become the biggest-selling 12' of all time, paradoxically crippling Factory in the process. The first nights at the Hacienda were also calamitous, with bands playing in front of single-figure audiences. Eventually however, the druggy indie dance kings Happy Mondays arrived on the scene, and acid house was born. Suddenly the Hacienda was the place to be and the Madchester rave scene became famous all over the world. The scenes of drugs-and-sex-excess on the Monday's tour bus and the re-creation of the Hacienda club nights are superbly portrayed.
The final part of the film tells how gang violence led to the closure of the club and the drug-riddled misadventures of the Mondays, especially their singer Shaun Ryder, led to their downfall and had severe financial implications for Factory Records (Wilson had inexplicably sent them to Barbados to record their last Factory album). Eventually, Factory was sold, lock, stock and barrel, to another label (who were perturbed to find Wilson had not signed any contracts with any of the Factory bands, effectively giving the artists total creative freedom).
24 Hour Party People is a real rollercoaster ride. There are some brilliant acting performances, punctuated by cameos from real members of the Manchester music scene (such as Howard Devoto and Mark E. Smith). The merging of legend and reality may make it difficult for people unfamiliar with events to work out what actually happened. But this is no accurate, austere documentary, but a touching, sometimes surreal, and often very, very funny, anarchic portrayal of a time and a place and it's music. Oh, and of course, the soundtrack is fantastic.
I get the general sense from reading some of the reviews that
people didn't like this movie because it didn't provide any instant
gratification or personal meaning. That's probably true for people
who don't know Joy Division, New Order, or the Happy Mondays,
but I think it's totally unfair to discredit this film on a basis of a
of prior knowledge. Many great films and novels aren't great
because you get them on the first try, and I think that this movie
follows the same path. If you didn't like it the first time, take a look
at an old Tony Wilson interview or a concert tape of Joy Division
and you will instantly see the quality production and acting that
went into this film.
Ian Curtis/Joy Division are portrayed with an eerily haunting
accuracy (down to the instruments they play, which are rumoured
to be the originals from the late 1970s) and you can tell that the
cast really did their homework. The concert scenes are
spectacularly energetic, the sets (especially the Hacienda) are
ripped right out of the time period. Comic relief isn't overlooked, as
the dry humour of Steve Coogan and the rest of the cast is
pursued to the dime. The unscripted dialogue is also quite good,
which is another indication of the actors' homework. This movie is
worth the time: it details a very important time and place in pop
music history that is often overlooked in the wake of much larger,
more commercialized scenes. Rave and post-punk may be fading
today, but one need only take a look at the charts to see its
influence. Go out and get this movie, learn a little about it, and you
will be impressed.
Alternative music is a passion of mine, so when I heard that there was film being made about factory records/'madchester', I was looking foward to seeing it. I wasn't disapointed. The script is very witty, the soundtrack is brilliant (Buzzcocks, A Certain Ratio, Sex Pistols, Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, I could go on....), it probably isn't 100% true to what actually happened, but that doesn't matter that much, after all, 24 Hour Party People is only a film. It also brings you into the lives of those there, and also heavily explores not only the music, but the scene too, which is very important because it essentially spawned the rave music of today. A fun filled way to spend a couple of hours. Highly recomended.
This is, was and forever will be one of my favourite films of all time. A
joyous love letter to the music, magic and madmen of Manchester, 24 Hour
Party People is utterly, utterly exhilarating. Even if you don't know your
New Order from your Durutti Column, you'll be hard-pressed not to get a kick
out of Michael Winterbottom and Frank Cottrel Boyce's freewheeling depiction
of a great time in pop culture.
In a nutshell, this is the story of a scene, a scene that grew out of the british punk explosion of the mid seventies. Inspired by the rising vibe in his home town, television presenter Tony Wilson, with the aid of colleagues Rob Gretton and Alan Erasmus created Factory Records. Factory is, as described in the film "an experiment in human nature", with no written contracts (barring one written on a napkin in Wilson's own blood) and total creative freedom for its acts. From the mid seventies to the early nineties, Factory launched a barrage of fresh and exciting talent on an unsuspecting world, ranging from punk (Joy Division, later to become New Order) to house (A Guy Called Gerald) and dance (Happy Mondays). At the centre of it all was Wilson, all the while balancing his empire building with a steady day job with Granada Television.
Winterbottom's film crams sixteen years of music history into under two hours, using and appropriately chaotic mix of storytelling techniques to rocket the story along. It's by no means an accurate account, (just listen to the commentary by Wilson on the DVD) but encapsulates the spirit of the Manchester Movement beautifully. The plot itself is split into two halves. Firstly, the early punk days, spearheaded by a promising quartet called Joy Division. Joy Division were the first notable artistic success of the label, but were hindered by controversy (the name was derived from the Nazi division of women who were used in an attempt to create the master race), gigs that often degenerated into brawls and most crucially, a talented, but troubled, severely epileptic lead singer, one Ian Curtis. The rapid rise and even faster fall of Joy Division anchors the first half.
The second half sees us bear witness to the birth of rave culture, aided along by one of Wilson's acts, the Happy Mondays. Formed by brothers Shaun and Paul Ryder, they blazed through Manchester in a blizzard of coke and heroin and shaped dance music in no small way. Oh, and they pretty much helped to run Factory into the ground.
Bouncing from hilarious comedy (a great deal of it improvised)to genuine poignancy (the decline of Curtis is heartbreaking stuff) the film is an utter triumph of wit, wonderment and technique. As Wilson, comedian Steve Coogan is nothing short of dynamic. Teetering on the right side caricature (and injecting a great deal of his Alan Partridge persona in to the mix) Coogan is the lynchpin for an otherwise wildly chaotic narrative. The entire cast do sterling work impersonating the Manchester luminaries of old (and by old, I mean young, before the drugs and booze). From Danny Cunningham's uninhibited Shaun Ryder to John Simm's gentle Bernard Sumner and Andy Serkis's fearsome Martin Hannet, (an arguably more fearsome character than Gollum if you ask me....) they're all great. But best of all is Sean Harris, who is simply unforgettable as Ian Curtis. He's so dead-on accurate its almost scary, from the haunted eyes and cheeky humor (witness his first meeting with Wilson) to the eccentric dance moves, its a performance that deserves every award in the book.
Oh and the music. Well if you're already a fan, I sure as hell don't need to say it, do I?
As it was, so it goes and so do I. See this movie before you die. Go on, rent it tonight, rent it now, buy it if you have to or if you're really desperate, just steal a copy. But please, see this movie, you won't regret it.
Ignore the awful ads for 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE (which are bollocks!), and run
out and see the film while it is out in limited release. Anybody with an
interest in Alternative Music in general, and the British Punk/New Wave &
Rave scenes should see this examination of the past 25 years of British rock
as filtered through the eyes of Factory Records' Tony Wilson.
Perhaps a bit too "inside" for general audiences, it is a rare example of a music based film that its actually good cinema to go along with it's raucous soundtrack. Well done, wry and entertaining. My only quibbles are that the filmmakers seem to be preaching to the converted. Except for the tragic Ian Curtis (JOY DIVISION), little attempt is made to inform the uninitiated as to why these bands mattered (NEW ORDER in particular, is just tossed around almost as a brand name, rather than a living breathing artistic unit). Also, we are constantly told how wonderful Manchester is as a city, but we are never really shown why. Steve Coogan's portrayal of Wilson really makes the film flow and live. It's not the kind of role that usually wins awards, but here's hoping some critics group somewhere notices. He's that fine.
Like any other movie about rock music, documentary or not, '24 Hour Party
People' packs its fair share of inside material and self-indulgent
Due to a crammed timeframe of 20 years (essentially one big juggling act of people, bands and events) connecting all the dots required multiple viewings, even if I had certain prior knowledge of the Manchester music scene in the late '70s, '80s and the early '90s. Making matters still more difficult is the variety of extremely thick accents - to a point of entire sections of dialogue or monologue occasionally flying by with only a single word or two actually registering with me. While it added to film's authenticity, that got to be more than a bit annoying after a while. Where's that closed captioned TV set when you desperately need it?
As far as the treatment of the subjects themselves goes, the movie does an adequate job. I mean, when it gets right down to it, the only structure such a film can more-or-less follow is the basic listing of a series of real events (and in this particular case most of them already well documented). Naturally, as such it doesn't allow for a whole lot of substantial artistic freedom so the director employs many little asides, winks and nudges by our narrator Tony Wilson (often through the 'fourth wall') as well as visual tricks and, obviously, music to make this different from, say, something you might see on VH1's 'Behind the Music'. In addition to being one of the major driving forces behind the whole scene, Tony also held a full-time job at Granada TV all throughout this period, which the movie uses skillfully for comic relief.
Predictably (not that I'm complaining), things like: Ian Curtis' suicide, the opening of the Haçienda club, ascent and demise of Factory Records, Shaun Ryder's famously out-of-control & self destructive shenanigans, all receive special treatment. Through Steve Coogan's excellent performance, Tony Wilson, our guide through this zoo, comes off as a pretty fascinating fellow. Director Michael Winterbottom makes a wise choice in leaving out many details from his private life in favour of the music itself and the people who created it. Wilson's second wife and kids, for example, are barely mentioned - with a cheeky remark about Tony being a minor character in his own life story as an explanation for the lack of on-screen time devoted to them.
In the end, whether or not you enjoy '24 Hour Party People' will largely, if not entirely, depend on your level of familiarity or appreciation of the bands like Joy Division, New Order, The Happy Mondays and to a lesser extent of their punk inspirations and predecessors like The Stranglers, The Jam, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, Siouxsie and the Banshees, who are also depicted in the film.
Personally, even though I was always aware of the British new wave, most of its music & 'shtick' pretty much slipped under my radar so I recently started discovering it retroactively. Therefore, it was a blast to see a well-done, interesting film celebrating that era in popular music. These blokes created & performed honest, full-blooded, passionate tunes, which is the single most important thing that comes through the movie.
P.S: The Smiths, another famous and influential Manchester band are notably absent from much of the film. This is probably due to the fact that back in 1983 both Tony and New Order producer/manager Rob Gretton agreed their demo was crap, so instead to Factory they went to Rough Trade Records based in London. They're mentioned briefly at the end, though, when Tony speaks to God himself who among other things tells him: "it's a pity you didn't sign The Smiths". :) Brilliant!
Previous reviewers of this film obviously just don't get it. This is
recent Brit stinkers
like Rancid Aluminium, Down Time, or Fanny and Elvis. This is more in the
Withnail and I, Trainspotting, Lock Stock, 28 Days Later, and Dog
The history of Factory records is chaotic and episodic. This is reflected superbly in the film. The characterisations are brilliant; from Steve Coogan's portrayal of the complex Anthony H. Wilson to minor characters such as Dave Gorman's John the Postman. If you were there at the time, it all comes flooding back... if you weren't then just sit back and enjoy the portrayal of a unique time in British popular culture...MANCHESTER 1976-1992
This movie is quite hyperbolic about the Manchester scene which is
portrayed with so much style, energy, humor, and gutty performances,
that even if you weren't a fan of Joy Division & Happy Mondays, this
particular musical revolution is extolled on a par with Memphis early
50's, the whole of UK 1963-65, San Francisco 1966-67, or Austin
1972-74. I wasn't a fan of those Manchester bands, but I really enjoyed
all of the music in this film. And Steve Coogan's performance and the
structure of his charismatic part are wonderful. And very funny.
Like "SLC Punk" and movies like "Rude Boy" and the Sex Pistols movies, "24 Hour Party People" captures the anger of the times and incredible energy of that socio-musical upheaval, and ultimately the sadness at the inevitable passing of a bright moment in popmusic history. When Coogan/Wilson brags about the birth of the rave culture in his club in his beloved city, taking credit for another major movement, I didn't feel his pride or excitement, only that sense of sadness at the techno-evolution of punk...
24 Hour Party People is just one of those movies that has that click
with the subject matter. The actual style of the film corresponds with
the music, the irreverence, and the energy of it all. But there's more
than just the unconventionality of the script and direction; the film
has that sort of stream-of-thought, wry, distinct British humor to it,
and a sincerity beneath the absurdist parts. It follows its main
character down the line, in a surreal way like a documentary, if that
makes sense- we move between Tony Wilson addressing the audience
(played by Steve Coogan, who is so on target with the honesty of the
portrayal you can't picture anyone else in the role), an almost
behind-the-scenes filming of it (I think), and a dramatization shot on
pure digital, independent vibes.
Wilson, who sees the Sex Pistols play in Manchester (his hometown, and the main base and heart in the location of this film), is also a journalist on television. He gets so enamored with what he sees as an extremely important part of history (the viewer will get a good idea of this), he gets involved with the bands, the locals, and goes from just bands, to maintaining the Hacienda, a club. Some parts of the film one might expect, if considering it includes the rise and fall of fame (or rather, in this film, a lot of times in the mind), and the drug scene coinciding with the music. One knows that Tony Wilson is the main character, the protagonist, basically in every scene, but somehow he does not become the only important part of the film's success. The music too is a huge factor, and the speed it sets for a movie like this.
As much biography as musical, 24 Hour Party People brings to light the scene of Manchester as a history lesson, but an entertaining one to boot. Bands like New Order (the form after Joy Division split) will be known to most who follow music, but unless if you're not really steeped in the new-wave/dance scene of the 80's and 90's, some of the bands may sound totally unfamiliar. Still, this is not an automatic deterrent- the music is what it is, and most who will want to see the film will know what they're getting (in truth, the ratio of British punk and new-wave vs. electronica is fairly balanced). But even when some of the music doesn't stand the test of time, it serves the story all the same (some of the more interesting and darkly funny scenes are when no one comes to the club the sort of 'mix-way' between the two musical eras).
And all through this, Coogan plays it like a pro. The Coogan Wilson, of course, is far from the real Tony Wilson (one of the DVD interviews says he's a 'Jerry Springer'-looking type), so it becomes more of being a character in this whole environment that springs up around and by him. In a way he's kind of like a British Andy Warhol with the idealistic, serious journalist instead of the painter/filmmaker. There's a sort of checked insanity that underlays some of his performance, and yet for most of the time, like a lot of the better British actors, he doesn't play it more for laughs than he needs, and when serious drama/tragedy comes up it's still kept to this reality. So, along with him, and the music, and the strange form of putting together a dramatized, documentary/musical/black comedy by director Michael Winterbottom and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, it all gels. This is one of the finest sleepers I've seen in a while.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Welcome to the wonderful world of Wilson. Tony Wilson, that is. Tony is a
Cambridge graduate, a fed up local TV reporter, the genius founder of the
Hacienda Club and Factory Records, and of course - as key players in this
movie constantly point out to him - a complete and utter
Worried that "Joy Division" is a bad name for a band, given its Nazi associations? Tony will wave you away with a cry of "haven't you ever heard of semiotics? Does post-modernism mean nothing to you?". Keen to get a record contract but anxious not to sell your soul to some pop Svengali? Tony will cut his hand and write out a "walk away, anytime" guarantee in his own blood. Fancy an all night rave with the Happy Mondays? Tony will splash out two thirds of a million quid on a truly cool new club, where the bar never makes any money because everyone is E'd up to their ears and only the dealers are cashing in. Want a free trip to Barbados, to party on while you should be cutting a record? Tony's company will fly you there first class, and won't even notice that you haven't recorded any lyrics until they plonk the final DAT tape on the hi-fi system back at company HQ (where the ludicrous designer table costs £30,000, a typical Wilson excess that provokes a fellow director to violence during a board meeting).
Meanwhile, Tony keeps up the day job as a reporter for Granada TV. Tony brings us the duck that herds sheep, the town crier who belts out the news of the suicide of Ian Curtis, Joy Division's lead singer, with a look of blank incomprehension, and of course the old git who used to work on Manchester ship canal in the days of Queen Victoria but can't remember anything about it.
Just as well, really, despite his despairing cries to his producer of "I'm a Cambridge English graduate!" and "Of course I take myself seriously!" Just as well because Factory Records, the Hacienda Club and the whole Wilson empire is built on air, and inevitably implodes leaving nothing behind but some bad hangovers and even worse debts.
But Wilson achieves his apotheosis, and we see that behind the convincing facade of "c**t" there is something admirable. When offered £5 million for the whole operation by some greasy London record company he points out that the entire record of his business is the orginal non-contract, written in his own blood and now framed above the opulent company table. "I avoided selling out", he explains, "by the simple expedient of never acquiring anything worth selling".
Wilson is played by Steve Coogan, an English comedian highly rated in this country for TV shows such as "This is Alan Patridge". Previous Coogan film efforts have been failures. In this he has merely followed so many English comedians before him (remember Morecambe and Wise in "The Intelligence Men"? No, of course you don't). But this performance is really excellent, rightly making Wilson seem absurd, pretentious, annoying, frivolous and lovable all at once. Sean Harris is magnetic in a too brief performance as Ian Curtis, who had too brief a life. Danny Cunningham is fine as Sean Ryder, who still survives, despite his best endeavours. (In one of the film's more alarming moments, Ryder and his mates put Tom Lehrer's injunction to Poison a Pigeon in the Park into full effect.) Followers of British comedy and music will enjoy spotting dozens of other guest appearances. Michael Winterbottom directs efficiently, and the movie has just enough of Wilson's vaunted post-modern detachment to lend a sense of irony while avoiding annoyance. The soundtrack, which being largely from Factory Records' back catalogue is Wilson's lasting monument, is wonderful.
See this movie.
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