Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Party' Rocks around the Clock

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Party' Rocks around the Clock

Article excerpt

Rap and hip-hop rule today's pop music, but once upon a time British mavericks blazed rock's most exciting trails.

"24 Hour Party People" chronicles the rise and fall of the Manchester, England, music scene, which launched the punk craze in the mid-'70s and then galloped through a wild series of follow-up trends including new wave, rave, and styles nobody managed to pin a label on.

It's not a perfect movie, but it's the smartest excursion into pop culture in recent memory. It also has the best star performance I've seen this year - by English actor Steve Coogan, who plays Antony Wilson, real-life owner of Factory Records and the Hacienda, a legendary Manchester nightclub.

Mr. Coogan and the movie were enthusiastically received at the Cannes film festival, along with Michael Winterbottom, who directed the picture using digital-video technology that gives it an appropriately grainy, shot-from-the-hip look. It also allowed for spontaneity from the actors, who were encouraged to follow their instincts as the cameras rolled.

The other key contributor was screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, whose script avoids the twin pitfalls of picayune detail on one side, and movie-style mythmaking on the other.

"Rock fans are nerdy, scholarly people who enjoy talking about the B sides of obscure records," he said at Cannes. "I wasn't interested in ... anything like that. I wanted to celebrate the achievements of Factory Records, and the truth of what happened is much more extravagant and funny than anything I could have made up."

Extravagant and funny it is, and also quite dark at times, especially when Manchester's growing drug scene brings violence to the Hacienda and its habitues.

This is the film's least original aspect, but it injects a note of inescapable reality into a picture that might otherwise have partied too much for its own good.

The story begins when Wilson, a TV reporter, discovers the Sex Pistols at a concert - he's almost alone in the audience - and sees a rock 'n' roll revolution in the making. …

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