24 Hour Party People

An entertaining film about the music scene in Manchester, and more precisely about Factory Records and the people surrounding the label. First of all labelboss Tony (Anthony) Wilson, who combines the realization of his musical dreams with a job as reporter for local tv station Granada. He is also the all-knowing narrator of the story, which he does with a lot of (self-)irony. Intertexual references are constantly made, such as “this scene will probably be cut out, and be included on the dvd only”. In his own words, Wilson was ‘post-modern before it was modern’. The musical history focuses on two periods and two protagonists. At the end of the 70’s, when Wilson organizes his first concerts and Factory is erected, Ian Curtis is the central figure. You follow the rise Joy Division, until the tragic suicide of Curtis.

Shortly after the funeral Wilsons marriage also breaks up, so the future doesn’t look very bright for him (and Factory). Sometimes an unexpected success occurs, like New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’, the best selling 12 inch record of all-time. Due to the extravagant sleeve the label doesn’t earn anything though… Meanwhile Wilson has started a new project: ‘The Hacienda’, a ultra-modern nightclub. At first only a handful visitors show up. But then, almost a decade later, the second Manchester wave follows. Suddenly this grey industrial city is the place to be, with the right music, the right people and the right drugs. Also for the first time DJ’s become stars. It’s the birth of rave culture, with people dancing to the sounds of the Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets and the Happy Mondays. On this last band the film focuses during the second part of the movie. And more in particular on frontman Shaun Ryder, according to Wilson ‘the greatest poet since Yeats’, but portrayed as an unreliable junkie.

Finally we watch the decline of Factory and The Hacienda, through lack of income (the rave audience doesn’t drink, only the drug dealers make money), drugs and shooting incidents in the club, too much spending (a 30.0000 pound table) and costly unendless recording sessions on exotic islands (New Order, Happy Mondays). The Hacienda had to be sold and Factory was bought by London Records, which was complicated by the fact that there were no formal contracts with any of the artists at all! Wilson later started a Hacienda 2, without much success, and nowadays still earns his living working for Granada TV.

The film takes you through all the events in a high tempo. Especially the start is very blurry and fragmented, which fits the punk era well. It all begins with a legendary Sex Pistols concert in Manchester. Virtually all 42 visitors (including Simply Red Mick Hucknall!) will later (try to) make it in the music business. At high speed various bands are introduced, to give a quick overview of the scene. I think it will make the film more attractive if you are familiar with names as The Buzzcocks or A Certain Ratio. Later the namedropping decreases, and the film concentrates on a few characters. Mentionable figures are designer Peter Saville, who always seems to finish his innovative work too late, and producer Martin Hannet, who is fat, drunken, demanding and obstinate. All people in the movie are more or less portrayed as charicatures, so don’t expect any deep revelations or motivations.

The first half of the film is more documentary-like. Narrator Wilson gives comments, while reconstructions are alternated with real archive footage. For instance Anton Corbijn’s great video for ‘Atmosphere’ is shown in the movie, after Curtis’ death. The second part more resembles a movie, with longer scenes and stories and less mixing of media. Funny are the scenes in which Wilson is active as tv reporter. Despite his claims that he is a serious journalist with a degree, he gets increasingly stupid jobs to do.

If you expect a serious rockumentary you may find it rather shallow. But if you want an entertaining film about your favourite music heroes you will be amused. All in all a pleasant mixture of facts and legends. And good music of course, I still have the two tracks of the final credits in my head: Happy Mondays ’24 Hour Party People’ and New Orders’ ‘Here to stay’.