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Kino Korner April 17, 2003
 
The 24-Hour Party Pidars
By Mark Ames Browse author Email
 
 

This issue I won't be able to review two of the movies coming to town: Just Married and View From the Top. They haven't been released on Moscow's pirate market yet, so folks, you're on your own with these two. If the war was still rolling, I'd just tell you to sit tight till next issue because nothing can compete with live war coverage. But that show just closed after a record-shattering run. Don't blame me, folks. I can't help it if the American slaughter-plow manages to harvest raghead souls with the same leapfrogging revolutionary efficiency as the cotton gin once did. But just because the war was a quick second-round stomping after the deceptively interesting first round, that doesn't mean that the show's over for good. The invention of the cotton gin may have massively increased the speed at which cotton could be harvested, but it also caused a cotton industry boom and with it a massive increase in slaves, eventually giving America its Civil War. By the same token, you can bet that the US Armed Forces' revolution in the art of slaughter and subjugation will only increase the number of wars. Cotton gins meant that more cotton was planted, not that the workday finished four hours earlier. The Pentagon should be rolling out wars like Police Academy sequels for as long as we live.

Anyhoo, here's what's showing in Moscow.

24 Hour Party People

24 Hour Party People

This movie is only playing one night, tonight, as this issue is being delivered. It's showing at the America Cinema at 9pm as part of the British Film Festival. (As Third World cinema goes, the Brits have done themselves proud in this American genre: Naked, Life of Brian, Shallow Grave, Withnail and I...)

24 Hour Party People is an incredibly infuriating film. I'd wanted to see it for months because the subject - the story of Manchester's Factory Records - is something dear to my heart. Manchester for some reason produced the greatest rock artists in all of England, and in such a condensed time: Joy Division, The Fall, The Smiths. If you ask me, that's pretty much all that matters from the whole history of British rock. Those three bands have little in common except that they are aberrations in rock's otherwise fluid evolution. How the hell did they come out of nowhere to change popular music so radically that it hasn't even figured out how to coopt them yet?

To 24 Hour's credit, the depiction of Joy Division's evolution from provincial punk band to innovators of a raw fascist sound that no one had ever imagined before was handled amazingly well. The industrial sound was created by a few manic-depressives and fuck-ups in a miserable North England city. It was made possible because for a brief moment, the ugly, angry and miserable were given power. Ian Curtis' wounded anger and producer Martin Hannett's passionate sloth made for interesting characters. Rock stars are always a parody on film, but not here. Joy Division is the most enigmatic of the great pop artists of the last quarter century, and this movie sheds at least some light on that enigma without spoiling it.

Besides having the bravery to devote time to Joy Division, the film is also notable for the cameo appearance of Mark E. Smith, the greatest Englishman alive today. It's hard to criticize a movie that has the good sense to cast Mr. Smith as a mangy old hanger-on standing in line outside a punk club.

But the movie has its flaws. Bigtime flaws. The first flaw is that it centers on Factory's founder, Tony Wilson, a classic wanker if there ever was one. Brits love these morally-ambiguous picaresque anti-heroes. He behaves like some thrill-seeking rich kid committed to little more than his own whim. But you're supposed to think he's complex and likable in a 20th century way because he lies, steals, pulls things off on a shoestring, and has a lot of fun the whole way and because he's doomed to succeed. He's the type that will live to a ripe old age no matter what he does.


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Ames
Browse author
Email Mark Ames at editor@exile.ru.
 
 
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