Meet Tony Wilson, the Cambridge-educated presenter of forgettable filler segments for daytime TV shows. He is not above a bit of buffoonery but that does not make him a fool.
He is also an expert raconteur with an irreverent attitude and if that isn’t enough to make him the perfect guide for a trip through 20 years of groundbreaking music in Manchester, he was also an integral part of the scene that spawned Joy Division/New Order, Madchester and raves.
In 1976, Tony Wilson attended a rock concert in a dingy hall. There were only 42 people in the audience and most of them remained seated for the entire performance. Nevertheless, it was a seminal moment–the band was the Sex Pistols and Tony was electrified. He loved music but so much of what he loved got no exposure in the mainstream–he intended to change that. He started modestly enough with a music night at a local dive but his ambitions grew to encompass a record label, Factory Records, and the most famous club in the world in the 1990s, the Hacienda.
24 Hour Party People takes a mock documentary style to true events. Played by Steve Coogan, Tony Wilson is a charmingly lovable free spirit in a suit who breaks down the fourth wall with a wink and a nod. Maybe the exact truth of events is not a priority–there is an early eyebrow-raising scene of marital infidelity in which Tony notes that a little hyperbole can only enhance the story–but the spirit is true. From the raw, anarchic energy of punk in the 70s to the groovy, Ecstasy-powered dance of the 90s, the film makes you feel like you were there.
This is not a this-happened-and-then-that-happened type of film. Instead, the director, Michael Winterbottom, just drops you in the middle of it all and grants you an insider’s view. Peppered with cameos from actors such as Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis and Christopher Eccleston and musicians too numerous to list, this film is a fun and loopy ride through a exciting era of music. You may feel a little exhausted by the end but imagine how the real Tony Wilson and his partners in crime felt.
Available on DVD.
With "Into the Vault", Pauline Dong will be looking at older films that were overlooked on first release or deserve a second viewing. The series will appear on the first Thursday of every month.
Written by Pauline Dong
A native Torontonian, Pauline enjoys much that the city has to offer, especially in the areas of food and drink. She is also an enthusiastic traveller and explorer of other cultures. A self-described film geek, her interest in movies was first piqued by the early works of Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and Wong Kar-Wai. More a fan than a critic, she invites your thoughts on the films in her articles.