24 Hour Party People

24 Hour Party People (2002) movie poster

(2002) dir. Michael Winterbottom
viewed: 02/08/03

24 Hour Party People is an interpretive document of the music scene in Manchester, England, spanning the “birth of punk” to the “death of rave culture.” The film’s approach is largely narrative, with actors embodying the “roles” of most of the key figures, but the film utilizes its primary subject, Tony Wilson, producer/promoter/personality (played by Steve Coogan), as both a central figure in the narrative and also as non-narrative commentator on the events depicted. The narrative isn’t particularly cohesive, as the film was conceived originally as being more a series of vignettes or something, focusing on two major groups, Joy Division and the Happy Mondays. The film’s use of direct address and narrative disjunctures adds to its lack of continuity and attempts for a pseudo-avant-garde aesthetic.

To its credit, I don’t think that the film attempts to give anything but a highly subjective, “interpreted” version of events. It’s sort of Tony Wilson’s almost stream-of-consciousness rant in semi-narrative form, which might be an admirable acknowledgement of the impossibility of a “definitive” film on such a subject.

For my money, though the film was entertaining, its lack of cohesion seemed a weakness. But that is my opinion. I also was more interested in the earlier story about Ian Curtis and Joy Division than about the Happy Mondays.

It’s funny that I have seen such a number of films that attempt to digest this time period, even though they focus on different parallel sub-cultures (The Clash: Westway to the World (2000) with its eponymous subject, Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001) regarding the skate scene in 1970’s Los Angeles, and The Filth and the Fury (2000)). I guess that middle age is settling in on this generation, and the retrospect has engendered a need to document and contextualize the significance of their energetic youth.

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