any good movies lately?
and recommend it.
faux documentary style, 24 Hour Party People tells the more or
less true story of Tony Wilson: British television personality,
co-founder of influential indie music label Factory Records, and owner
of Manchesterís most famous/infamous club, the Hacienda. As Wilson
himself glibly says, though, itís not his story at all --or rather,
heís a minor player in the story of his own life. And heís right, in
a way: Wilsonís life story is really a chronicle of the Manchester
music scene between 1976 and 1992, from the birth of punk to the death
of acid. The film begins
with Wilson at a legendary Sex Pistols show in Manchester Ė at which
it seems that of the 40-some people present, fully half would go on
to become fairly well-known musicians themselves. Among these are the
boys who would become Joy Division, Factoryís first major band. Joy
Divisionís on the verge of making it big when the bandís resident
tortured genius, singer/songwriter Ian Curtis, hangs himself.
Factoryís most critically-lauded band manages to find rebirth in the
form of New Order, which goes on to enjoy success as one of the best of
the 80s new wave dance bands. Neither
they, nor Factory, ever see much financial reward, however, as all of
the money goes back into the creation of Wilsonís ill-conceived
brainchild, the Hacienda nightclub, which from the get-go, seems
destined for failure. Though the Hacienda eventually becomes the
birthplace and center of the rave/dj culture -- as embodied in all its
glorious excess by Factoryís newest popular band, the Happy Mondays
Ė Factory continues to hemorrhage money. In the grand tradition of
Wilsonís punk heroes, the Sex Pistols, in the end Factoryís failure
sort of is its success: when you found something on the basis of
not selling out, ending up with nothing to sell is kind of the ultimate
proof that you did all right.
24 Hour Party People for the first time is like going to a really
great show by a band you previously knew little about: you come out of
it afterwards feeling totally energized by the fact that youíve
discovered something new and wonderful and amazing, though you havenít
had quite enough time yet to process what it is exactly thatís so
impressed you. Thereís nothing that any plot summary could say that
would be able to capture why 24 Hour Party People is such a crazy
joy to watch. After all, the Manchester music scene isnít something
Iíve really ever thought about, cared about, felt a connection to.
Sure, I still pop in my New Order CDs from time to time Ė despite my
boyís groans of nooooo! Ė but the Happy Mondays pretty much always
seemed bland (despite Wilsonís repeated glowing comparison of
Mondaysí drugged-out, tone-deaf singer/lyricist Shaun Ryder to W.B.
Yeats, I think itís safe to assume that Wilsonís alone in the world
in that opinion). And unless you happen to be British, and were alive in
the 70s, youíre unlikely to have a clue who Tony Wilson is.
Even after watching the movie, youíre still not certain you
know Tony Wilson at all Ė heís so gleefully postmodern cutesy
(ďThis scene didnít actually make it to the final cut. Iím sure
itíll be on the DVDĒ) that thereís no escaping the fact that he
knows that we know that heís always, always aware of the
camera. And then thereís the added layer of the fact that the Tony
Wilson we see on-screen isnít the real Tony Wilson at all, but Steve
Coogan, an actor who apparently once played a very Wilson-esque
character on British television. Itís never entirely clear whatís
true, and whatís real, and whether any of this is even really as
important in the grand scheme of things as Wilsonís over-inflated ego
would like to believe. And thatís a lot of the fun of it. Wilson
utters his pomposities one second, then turns to the camera and
basically mocks himself the next. The character, like the movie, loves
the music and the chaotic spirit of the Manchester scene, but never
takes any of it so seriously that he canít step back and laugh at it
as well. óreviewed
by Yee-Fan Sun
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