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Heroes of the Zeroes: 24-Hour Party People

by on January 4, 2010
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The Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.

“24-Hour Party People”
Rated R

“24-Hour Party People” concerned sex that may not have happened, drugs that users can barely remember and rock ‘n’ roll no one will ever forget from the “Madchester” scene in Manchester, England circa the 1970s and ’80s.

When perma-baked Happy Mondays singer Shaun Ryder mentions he had a great time of what he could recall, it’s the era’s, and the movie’s, mantra. What’s a knockabout British-rock movie without a spot of unreliable narration anyway?

Playfully flimflamming with truth, Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 film focuses on the headlong thrum of 1970s/80s punk, wacky hallucinations and rave culture’s birth.

In a cheeky fourth-wall breach, Manchester journalist Tony Wilson openly acknowledges his Icarus-as-impresario symbolism. Played by the incomparably deadpan Steve Coogan, Wilson co-founded Factory Records, home to Joy Division and Happy Mondays.

“Party People” emphasizes business tumult over personal turmoil, but briefly laments the suicide of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. (“Control,” which appears later on the list, chronicles that in full, but this is Wilson’s story.)

He sought to be the toast of Manchester — using music to boost civic pride and his good-life access. Easier fantasized than done, as Wilson discovered a thin line between exuberant rebellion and financial ruin.

“Party People’s” tossed-off philosophy was that the worst of times, like the best, would pass away — never truer than in the fickle music industry. And, as most scenes do, everything must go in a bang. The film provided a free-form view of a freefall where artifice and artistry tumbled head over heels.