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15th September 2015

Classic Review: 24 Hour Party People

Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People serves as an excellent crash-course in Manchester’s music history

One of the first things you may think about while in Manchester is the Madchester music scene and the Haçienda, before disappointingly discovering it is now a luxury apartment building with a reception and concierge next door to Deansgate Locks.

But fear not, for Michael Winterbottom’s entertaining comedy 24 Hour Party People offers you the opportunity to relive what was best believed to be part of the height of the music culture in Manchester from the late 70s till well into the 90s, which arguably defined youth and rave culture as it is now.

The film centres on Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan), former television presenter, co-founder of Manchester’s Factory records, and manager of the Haçienda club which is very much central to the film’s setting. In this film, Tony Wilson frequently breaks the fourth wall, and in a sense, plays the role of the presenter of his own reality. 24 Hour Party People may very well be seen as a biographical film about Tony Wilson’s career, but through him, we discover how the iconic club Haçienda became as it was as dance music began to become more and more popular. We follow the shenanigans of Factory-signed bands from the likes of the Happy Mondays, Joy Division/New Order, and A Certain Ratio—whether they actually happened in real life or not, it’s certainly funny.

Of course there were drugs, sex and violence. The emphasis of ecstasy, dancing, and raving until the early hours of the next morning places you in a sense of authenticity of what it could have possibly felt like in Madchester during the 1990s. But this is all done with no intended seriousness and Michael Winterbottom’s aim of a comedy in the expense of these real life characters is well achieved.

All in all, what can be taken from this film is a renewed fondness for Manchester, and the music that came out which embodied what the city was and is still very much like. But you are introduced to bands that had arguably defined a part of the Manchester music scene as well as set a progressive trend for UK music. By the time you watch this film from beginning to end, whether you are new to Manchester or not, you may not have a completely accurate historic representation of Manchester, but what you will certainly have are a few authentic Mancunian bands under your belt if you did not know any already.

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