24 Hour Party People (2002) Directed by Michael Winterbottom
I bought Closer by Joy Division the day it came out. I was 14 years old. I also bought records and saw shows by the likes of the Stockholm Monsters, The Wake, A Certain Ratio, Durutti Column and others. When I was 15 I went to New Order's first official London show. Me and my friends managed to sneak backstage to meet the band after the show. I always remember arguing with Barney why he should give me one of his plectrums. "Too Fooking expensive! These cost 17 pence in Manchester". I retorted that plectrums cost 20 pence in the rich south. He never gave me the plectrum. To quote the title of an early Joy Division release, Factory was an Ideal For Living. It was THE record label for me. The record covers, the look of the bands, every Factory item having a catalog number, the politics of the label and Manchester. So when 24 Hour Party People was released, I was drawn to the film as the Factory Records story was a big part culturally of my early teen years.
Winterbottom avoids the usual myth making and sentimentality of the Rock Music bio pic. He directs with energy and grit. The look of the film is realistic documentary style. He captures the humor, drugs, fatality, spirit and idealism of the Manchester music scene at this time. The only performance of note is that of Steve Coogan, excellent as Factory Records boss Tony Wilson. Through Wilson we get his take on the story of Joy Division, record producer Martin Hannett, The Happy Mondays and how the Hacienda become the most celebrated night club of it's generation. And we get the social importance and impact of Factory Records on Wilson's beloved Manchester.
Much better than Anton Corbijn's overly reverent Control film, which covers some of this history, 24 Hour Party People is a blast. Whether you know anything about Factory or not, this is an entertaining, funny film on any level. Not only one of the best British films of recent years, it sets new standards for the rock bio pic. Classic.
I remember going to see this film in the cinema many years ago. We walked in and Nick had been excited and talking about the bands and their meaning culturally for hours. Maybe days. So we had great expectations. I was entertained, Nick was probably in tears by the end of it.
24hour Party People is an informative documentary-like picture about Manchester, a specific period in time and about English culture. To my liking it is a little bit shabby, the picture quality is awful and the aesthetics lacking. This all makes it quite honest, I know, and the very annoying
contextualizing (talking to the movie audience) by the Tony Wilson character reminds me of something specifically English. This is quite hard to put into words, but it is the admirable ability to live in such a small space, in tiny houses and on small roads, with so much difference and poverty and extreme riches, the Queen and the politics, pop and history. History is important, because it seeps through and intelligent Britons have a vast pool of culture to contextualize everything with, if they want to. That's where someone like Tony Wilson, the real person, obviously had enormous talent. Maybe it's also a culture where change has been embraced relatively quickly. I don't know, but this movie has that pace, a truthful touch, which makes it not so much a cinematic experience, but a comment on some reality.