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United Kingdom 2002
Directed by
Michael Winterbottom
115 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Ruth Williams
2.5 stars

24 Hour Party People

Synopsis: In Manchester in the late 1970s, a little known band by the name of the Sex Pistols performed to a small audience. One of the members of that audience was a Granada TV presenter, Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan). This event became the catalyst for Wilson to start up his own record company. It seemed like a good idea at the time; to create a music scene that was independent of the two big companies releasing records out of London who, Tony assures us, were decidedly stuck in the past. The film follows his memory of what occurred and the role he played.

24 Hour Party People is not the kind of film that I would usually choose to see, which in the end became the reason I thought I should check it out. Before entering the cinema, I noticed that the majority of the people lined up waiting for the cinema to open, were young men. Hmmm, a little out of my demographic, but maybe even more of a reason to attend. Question; what are young men watching these days? I felt like someone who was there under false pretences, more interested in the audience than the film itself.

The world presented in Winterbottom’s film is most definitely important and applicable to a certain time in one’s life. In this game, Tony Wilson seems an odd player, especially when everyone around him is more or less out of control. His Cambridge education should have alienated him from his more streetwise peers yet his genuine love of the performers and their music overcame his estrangement.

Robby Müller, the favoured cinematographer of the likes of Lars von Trier, Jim Jarmusch and Wim Wenders, shot the film on digital video. Here he has the perfect opportunity to play with the medium, especially being able to shoot "handheld". This gives the film a documentary feel, providing entry to Manchester in the late '70s through to the '80s through Wilson’s eyes. The music is raw and angry, with a mix of aggression and protest that evolved from punk through to rave and then house. If we are to go by the potted history of the region dutifully included by Wilson and Winterbottom, it is no wonder these young men were feeling disgruntled. Although the response was more escapist than it might have been a generation earlier. The suicide of the 23-year-old Ian Curtis, (Sean Harris) on the eve of Joy Division's first American tour, indicates that there were deeper issues than just being successful.

It is impressive the way Tony Wilson and his friends created their own buzz and the use of the Wilson character as a guide through these party days means the film is accessible to a wider audience than those who have a connection to the music and the times. Wilson is funny as well as being deliciously opinionated. And for the filmgoer, it’s probably not a bad contrast to all the films dealing with emotional catharsis that have been doing the rounds lately. In the spirit of these 24 hour party people, if you can’t decide if you should try for a better life, you can always party!




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