24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Danny Cunningham, Andy Serkis, Chris Coghill, Lennie James
MPAA Rating: (for strong language, drug use and sexuality)
Running Time: 1:57
Release Date: 8/9/02
Review by Mark Dujsik
“I’m a minor character in my own story. This is a film about the music and the people who made the music.”
Wilson (Steve Coogan) narrates the story of the formation, rise (at least on the
terms of the people involved), and hasty, unavoidable downfall of Factory
Records, which from 1976 to 1992 helped put the bands Joy Division, New Order,
and Happy Mondays into the British music scene, and all because Wilson and some
friends attended a Sex Pistols concert where only forty-some people showed up.
The music was new, revolutionary, and said something about the time and
place they were in. Before seeing 24 Hour Party People, I had no idea who
film opens with Wilson showing his television public the joys of hang gliding.
His experience of flying, he tells us, actually happened but also serves
as a metaphor for things to come (“I’ll just say, ‘Icarus.’”).
He’s a professional journalist who just wants to cover serious, real
stories but somehow always gets stuck with the trite pieces.
Then he attends the Sex Pistols concert and decides to allow people the
opportunity to hear and see performances like this and help fuel the revolution.
At the time, broadcast television in
We see from the start how this will cause a problem, and things just get worse from there. Wilson sets up a club called the Hacienda, which starts as a place to headline Factory label bands and, as a result, makes no money and turns into the first rave. This attracts customers, just not the kind of people you’d like hanging around, and drugs, not alcohol, are the cornerstone of rave-situation substances. As a result, the club still makes no money, even though it’s insanely popular. There are other stunts that have little financial success. Wilson sends one of his bands down to Barbados to kick a heroin habit, although they end up spending all the money Factory sends to them to record in studio on cocaine, returning with an album with no lyrics. Screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce gives an insider’s knowledge to the episodic events of the film, which seems rational since Wilson himself served as a consultant and many key players appear in brief cameos (most of which the film-version of Wilson points out with aplomb in one scene). Throughout the film, Wilson loves to keep the audience in on the joke with a continual series of asides to the camera, letting us in on some unknown information or pointing out where digressions from reality have been made.
This is exactly the kind of attitude these people had and apparently still have—a kind of self-involved, jab-in-the-ribs humor—and the film captures it incredibly well. It also captures the time and place with equal success. Wilson likes to compare the time of Factory to the Renaissance, and in certain ways, it is. Obviously, the Renaissance contained more important and significant contributions, but it’s odd that so many people of similar visions were present in Manchester at the same time. In the film, Manchester is a shadow and corpse of the industrial center it used to be. Is that the reason for the coincidence? Could this music have been made at any other place and time or is it contingent on this place and time? Either way, there’s this feeling of joy with the era throughout the film, even when times are bad. Just being there and being able to live through it and knowing exactly what it is while it’s happening seems to be the spirit of Factory. “We are an experiment of human nature,” Wilson confides to Factory’s last hope, another record producer. We’ve already discovered that by the time he points it out, though.
films the movie with a handheld, nostalgic look and feel, which helps with two
things. First, it gives the sense of
a documentary (
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.