Ok.. not the most obvious choice for the first ever ‘A Bloody Great Film’ review. It’s not exactly Powell and Pressburger, i’ll give you that, but it is a personal favourite, and not only that, it’s horrendously under-rated. And i’m going to do this thing alphabetically so numbers are always first. If, like me, you tend to avoid films with such titles because you think it sounds a little too… lowbrow for you and your cinephile brain- I urge you to put your feelings aside, just this once, and I can promise you, the pay off is remarkable.
Set in 1980’s Manchester, or ‘Madchester’, the film tells the story of Tony Wilson, (played here by a dashing, silly but very loveable Steve Coogan) the co-founder of Factory Records and owner of the Hacienda nightclub, who began his career by signing Joy Division and then went on to sign Happy Mondays and New Order. So far, so-so (depending on your musical taste, of course.)
But what follows is one of the most moving and funny films of the past decade. It is easily Winterbottom’s best film, with some blinding performances from Paddy Considine as Wilson’s unhinged colleague Rob Gretton, Sean Harris as Joy Division’s tragic Ian Curtis and the ever perfect Andy Serkis as loony record producer Martin Hannett- but the real show stealer is Coogan himself. He narrates the story, breaking down the fourth wall to provide anecdotes and tales of his rock and roll life style- which Coogan manages to make look about as rock and roll as a deflated balloon. Wilson comes across as slightly foolish and almost stupid-flaunting his Cambridge education through quoting those such as Scott F. Fitzgerald and Yeates- slightly lost on the company he keeps. A fondle with a hooker in the fur-lined boot of a transit van is about as good as it gets for Wilson, though his manner is almost endearing (can I touch your tits while you do it, please?). His reaction to the death of Ian Curtis is simultaneously funny and completely heartbreaking.
The story though, is not just that of Factory records, but of the music, the drugs, the girls and the rave scene of Manchester. It may not sound like your cup of tea- the 80’s rave scene in Manchester isn’t mine either, but the one thing that the film succeeds in doing- one thing that many others don’t- is making you wish you were there.
With cameo’s from Wilson himself, as well as from other movers and shakers from the ‘Madchester’ scene, 24 Hour Party People perfectly captures a part of British history- not necessarily the best part or the part that we’re most proud of, but then that’s what cinema is about. There are no archetypal characters or lectures about why you should / shouldn’t take drugs (though watching the members of Happy Mondays licking and snorting methadone of the floor of an airport is enough to put anyone off), it’s just that- a time and place in British History- that sort of makes us look cool.
If nothing I have said convinces you, go and watch it just to prove me wrong. I can absolutely guarantee you that you will be downloading ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ as soon as the credits roll.