Monday, September 19, 2011

Movie of the Week – 24 Hour Party People

This week’s movie is 24 Hour Party People (2002).

The music biography centers on Tony Wilson in the mid-70s through the early 80s as he sets up Factory Records and plays a role in the discovery of bands like Joy Division (later New Order) and the Happy Mondays and promotion of the Manchester music scene. The film is directed by Michael Winterbottom (who made another very similar movie, stylistically, with star Steve Coogan: Tristram Shandy A Cock and Bull Story) and is written by Frank Cottrell Boyce (a frequent collaborator). While the film is a biography of the time and music, it is told in a somewhat unreliable way (the main character Tony Wilson is not a reliable narrator/storyteller as he changes and exaggerates facts and instances) and constantly breaks the fourth wall, which actually works quite well as it pulls the viewer in and makes them a part of the scene – this is also due to the shooting style Winterbottom employs with cinematographer Robby Muller. Mark Tildesley’s production design is also spot-on for the period and style. Steve Coogan gives what is probably his best film performance to date, and there is good supporting work from Paddy Considine, Shirley Henderson, Andy Serkis, Danny Cunningham, and especially Sean Harris (who plays the role of Ian Curtis phenomenally). While the film is interesting (particularly for music fans) and funny, it is the narrative structure and soundtrack that set it apart from other biopics. When I first saw it (probably in late 2002 or sometime in 2003), I was not well versed in the Manchester music scene of the late 70s/early 80s (aside from New Order) and the film got me into a couple bands (chief among them Joy Division). I highly recommend it for music fans, and it makes a good companion piece to Control. Check out the trailer.

Available on DVD and to Rent

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