24 Hour Party People
The movie

Director Michael Winterbottom has dedicated his latest production to the rise and fall of Tony Wilson and the Manchester music scene between 1976 and 1992. It's not a documentary film, but rather a tongue-in-cheek look at Mancunian pop culture, seen through the eyes of the infamous Wilson.

"24 Hour Party People" flopped at the Cannes Film Festival, which is hardly surprising. To understand the wit and the cameos of the movie, you should at least have a certain insight into the Manchester scene as such and its protagonists in particular - otherwise you are most likely going to miss the point completely.

The film is so much aimed at fans of Joy Division/New Order and the Happy Mondays, it's highly unlikely ever to become a mainstream success. That's probably why a late night screening at York's City Screen cinema in april 2002 enticed just about 10 spectators. Anyway, the story of Wilson, his Factory label and the Hacienda club is still well remembered in the UK and could in turn make "24 Hour Party People" a box office success.

Here's the story in short: It's 1976, and local TV presenter Tony Wilson (played by British comedian Steve Coogan) is hanging out at a Manchester gig by the Sex Pistols. He is so impressed by the performance, he instantly decides to be part of that scene and sets up a record label for new and challenging local bands. He signs a lot of groundbreaking acts, like Warsaw/Joy Division (who, after Ian Curtis' suicide, choose the monicker New Order) and thus paves the way for a new and exciting chapter in Manchester's pop culture.

Later, he opens a club in order to provide independent musicians with a decent gigging place, and this club, the "Hacienda", is to become the temple of Acid House music after the arrival of another Wilson signing, the Happy Mondays. In due course, the whole concept gets out of hand. The Hacienda is a hip location, but proves to be a financial disaster and turns into a bonanza for drug dealers, which again wrecks the club's reputation. It will be closed down later. The label on the other hand is let down by a lack of smash hits and has to be sold. The myth is crumbling down.

All in all, Winterbottom stays true to the history, and the whole story is narrated in quite an amusing way, but without turning into a trifle. However, the casting deserves some criticism. Wilson's portrayal is a bit exaggerated (which fits, in a way), while Sean Harris makes a very unconvincing Ian Curtis. Plus, at some points the film mixes original video footage of live gigs by the Sex Pistols or Joy Division with shots of a fake audience, which looks really awkward.

Apart from that, "24 Hour Party People" (named after a song by the Happy Mondays) must be the first attempt to bring the Manchester music scene to the movie screen. A nostalgia trip, of course, but a worthy one.

Read a review on Tony Wilson's book "24 Hour Party People" here.

(rh 05/MMII, pictures pathe)
>> 24 Hour Party People on the Web

This is not Ian Curtis!

Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan)