Beginning during the dawn of Factory Records--as Tony Wilson throws himself off a cliff for Granada TV--24 Hour Party People attempts to capture the essence of the ill-fated label which spawned Joy Division/New Order, The Happy Mondays and the venue that started modern Club Culture, the Hacienda in Manchester. Director Michael Winterbottom takes a very different approach to most music biographies, by making the film self-aware that it is a film and ironically looking at its own role within the history of the "Mad-chester" scene.
Inspired by Wilson's autobiographical musings, the film is narrated in character by Steve Coogan as Wilson. He offers sporadic moments from his life--his "career" as a presenter at Granada and his several marriages--which in turn influence the destructive nature of the label he founded. Coogan's Wilson gives monologues to camera which remind the audience that what they are watching is only his perspective. Yet with Coogan in the title role it's impossible to ignore the similarities between Wilson and Alan Partridge; and although this adds instant humour to the film it also instantly pins Wilson with the comic "Partridge" tag of fated fool. The cinematography, on the other hand, tries faithfully to embody the feeling of the times, from grainy celluloid for the punk-like Joy Division gigs to bright, clean-cut images for the birth of the Hacienda. The film also benefits from an amazing soundtrack and strong supporting characters. It all adds up to a picture that's purely British in character: imbued with irony, down-and-out inspiration, and a touch of the surreal.
On the DVD: 24 Hour Party People comes as a two-disc set, but there really is little need. Disc 1 is loaded with great extras, such as the deleted scenes, commentaries and Mad-chester musings, but the second disc is a little on the dull side. This really could have been just a single great DVD. There's an excellent screen and audio transfer that brings both the music and the lurid colours to life and the disc also offers that all-important function for hardcore clubbers: a hard of hearing option.
Tony Wilson commentary
Commentary with Steve Coogan and Andrew Eaton
Artists' commentary from Peter Hook, Rowetta, Leroy Richardson, Bruce Mitchell, Miranda Sawyer, Bobby Langley and Martin Moscrop
'White Rabbit' style guide
24 deleted scenes
'Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches' documentary (47 minutes long)
'Portrait of a Filmaker' documentary (23 minutes long)
Peter Saville gallery
New Order music video 'Here to Stay'