24 Hour Party People

12 Sep

Poster for the film 24 hour party people

Manchester, the city, stars in a tale of music, drugs and a local TV presenter

Fact or fiction – the film that tells it all irrespective of whether it really happened or not. But that’s how it was. I remember the second summer of love because I was there. The review of the most atmospheric film for years…. coming soon. An audio film review featuring the sounds of Manchester and Factory records. Joy Division, New Order, the Happy Mondays and people applauding the DJ for the first time ever at the Hacienda club.

audio transcript

In competition at Cannes there’s no doubt that 24hour Party People will bring a bit of ‘less than exotic’ Manchester to sun-kissed southern France. This film tells a very particular kind of truth about a very special period in musical history. When freedom still existed and drugs were about celebrating life, not causing death. This film isn’t what happened, but it’s how it was – an important distinction. Steve Coogan plays the main character, Tony Wilson, music guru, founder of factory records and cheesy local news presenter. And he does so with frightening accuracy. He sums up the essence of Wilson’s smart alec idealism. When I moved to Manchester in 1988 I thought for a long time that Wilson was a sad presenter of an early evening quiz show that featured a man with an enormous papier-mache head. Later I discovered he was the owner of Factory records, home of New Order, the Happy Mondays and the Hacienda club. Last year I sat next to him in a bar on Canal Street and we said ‘Alright Tony’ and he said ‘Alright lads’ and preened his hair. So now I’m back to thinking he’s a bit of a sadster again. But back to the film. The live music sections are brilliantly staged and performed and there are more cameos than you can count with everyone but Morrissey taking part. If you’re happy to look past the over-constructed asides to camera and the insider jokes then you will get the reward. A film that brings not one, but two eras to life. Everyone works hard to make this film breathe, but at the end of the day, as the character of Anthony H Wilson says, the real thing that made it all happen was Manchester itself. Dirty, and often unloved, but with a beating heart of creativity and above all the balls to show up London’s attempts to create a cool Britannia. Because Madchester was the real thing, it did it first and you can find it in a cinema near you.

audio transcript

Fact or fiction – this is the film that tells it all irrespective of whether it really happened or not. But that’s how it was. And I remember the second summer of love because I was there. The first half of this film, though, takes place in the age of punk. Smart arsed, but idealistic TV news presenter, Tony Wilson (or Anthony H Wilson, as he will become) decides to start a record label in Manchester. He signs a contract in blood stating that he will never rip anyone off. 20 years later after drugs, sex and plenty of music he finds that he’s still a minor TV celebrity but he’s also been the guru of two of the greatest musical eras in British history. Featuring staged music sections that capture the real atmosphere and a snappy, self aware script, the film is topped off by a great performance from Steve Coogan that captures Tony Wilson in all his many contradictory moods. A great film, overdone, overdosed and over in your cinema. And it doesn’t rain all the time, no matter what they say.

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