24 Hour Party People review

:. Director: Michael Winterbottom
:. Starring: Steve Coogan, Andy Serkis
:. Running Time: 1:38
:. Year: 2002
:. Country: UK


Winterbottom is back with a film that will undoubtedly only speak to a certain generation and a particular public. If you are not familiar with bands like Joy Division and Happy Mondays, you might get bored unless you find the adventures of a music label producer appealing. For others, it's visual and musical jubilation.

Michael Winterbottom is a creator. None of his films resembles each other, neither in style nor subject matter. However, one cannot deny his talent to adapt the form to the matter, even if these artistic choices might remove him of his own identity. With 24 Hour Party People, he proposes a biography of the head of Factory records—a famous English label which launched, in the late Seventies and early Eighties, the careers of such mythical bands as Joy Division and Happy Mondays.

24 Hour Party People is the anti-Doors film. It is not a film about Joy Division, the band that put Manchester on the map as a reservoir of artists likely to revolutionize rock. If Ian Curtis fans are disappointed to hear only Joy Division's greatest hits on the soundtrack, it's because Winterbottom does not want to only address the initiated. His film attempts to paint a portrait of the principal figure of this period, Tony Wilson, an exuberant journalist and host on Granada TV (where he still works), and future cofounder of Factory records. The opening scene sets the tone: the journalist comments on his first awkward experience with hand gliding. Only a few scenes, sometimes burlesque, are needed to understand his personality: exuberant, cultivated, rhetorician, and specialist in self-irony, with typically British deadpan humor.

In 1976, Wilson and a small crowd attend the concert of an unknown band: the Sex Pistols. Feeling the energy released on stage, he declares that this moment is historical. His intuition won't fail him since the bands he will sign with Factory Records—a label he co-founded with Alan Erasmus and Rob Gretton—will change the face of rock by revitalizing it with a new sound. Joy Division's first album, Unknown pleasures, carried by its singles "Atmosphere", "Transmission", and especially "Love will tear us apart", was a hit. Even after the suicide of charismatic singer Ian Curtis, the band continued to influence the world of rock music when the other members then formed New Order. The film moves from one era to another—we witness the first raves, the cult of the DJ, on through the glory years of the Haçienda, a nightclub whose fame exceeded the borders of Manchester. It goes until Wilson's fall, a victim of his excesses and the freedom he granted to some of his protégés such as Happy Mondays (whose frontman Shaun Ryder is a notorious drug addict).

The cast is very realistic. Fans will welcome performances by Sean Harris, Danny Cunningham and Chris Coghill in the roles of Ian Curtis, Shaun Ryder and Bez. As most of the protagonists are still alive (Tony Wilson was a technical adviser and the others have cameos), Winterbottom was careful to show real respect. The script is also successful in compressing 20 years of rock history. Robby Müller—a cameraman who collaborated on Lars Von Trier's Dancer in the dark—restores the energy of the musicians and heads of Factory records. Entirely filmed in digital, the film translates the spirit of freedom that reigned at that time.

Rather than a film about music (once again, fans shouldn't expect a documentary on their favorite bands) or Tony Wilson, 24 Hour Party People is an homage to the spirit of a city whose culture became influential: Manchester.

  Moland Fengkov

     24 Hour Party People Soundtrack
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