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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK
Return to the Hacienda
24 Hour Party People
The Manchester music scene was the height of cool
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By BBC News Online's Ian Youngs

The first time we see Tony Wilson, the legendary boss of Manchester record label Factory, he is a local television reporter trying to keep his cool while being launched from a Lancashire hillside strapped to a hang-glider.

He fails to keep his cool, but succeeds in flying - for a short time, before crashing into the ground while still trying to give a running TV commentary.

The rest of the film follows that pattern - Wilson, an enthusiastic novice, jumps, flies, yelps with excitement for a bit, then crashes and burns.

But instead of hang-gliding, most of the film sees Wilson set up a record company and nightclub, which both become legendary institutions on the music scene. And then collapse.

24 Hour Party People is Coogan's second film
Coogan used to do impressions of Tony Wilson
Wilson is played by comedian Steve Coogan, best-known for his comic creation Alan Partridge - but Wilson is also still very much alive, and the events shown in the film are still in many peoples' memory.

He was one of the major movers on the alternative music scene of the 1970s and 1980s, discovering bands like The Happy Mondays, Joy Division - who became New Order - and running the Hacienda nightclub.

Somehow, he managed to fit this in with his day job as a journalist for Granada Television.

And in 24 Hour Party People, Wilson's adventures and misadventures provide the thread along which the story runs.

Wilson's story lends itself well to the film-making machine - he is well-meaning and brilliant but flawed, and was an unlikely success before becoming a glorious failure.

But it was never straight-forward - and a story about any old be-suited record executive would not be half as interesting, and Wilson was not any old record executive.

John Simm plays Bernard Sumner of Joy Division/New Order
Liberties are taken with some of the characters
And unlike some people who might object to their life story being altered a little for the big screen, Wilson is happy to have his legend embellished and exaggerated.

The bones of the story are not altered, but some of the action is - like when we see The Buzzcocks' Howard Devoto having sex with Wilson's wife Lindsay, the real Howard Devoto pops up as a toilet cleaner and informs us that "this didn't really happen".

Coogan makes a good Wilson - as he should, as someone who used to do impressions of the entrepreneur at the start of his career.

Coogan was allowed to improvise around the script, bringing a large amount of humour to a film that is not supposed to be a comedy.

Many people say that Coogan's portrayal of Wilson reminds them of Alan Partridge - and that is more than a coincidence.

Apart from the fact that there is a little bit of "a-ha" in all of Coogan's characters, the real Wilson has a slightly overblown, grotesque personality that is easy to play with.

Artistic licence

This is Coogan's second film - and 24 Hour Party People is certainly a lot more credible than his first effort, The Parole Officer, which was widely panned.

But this will not be a mainstream success - mainly because, alas, there are not enough Joy Division and New Order fans out there.

Those that there are must brace themselves to see a few liberties being taken with their heroes - Sean Harris, who plays late Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, is pretty faithful, but John Simm and Ralf Little, who play Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook, are given more leeway.

And Danny Cunningham looks like Shaun Ryder, but his character is more of a caricature.

You certainly need a slight interest in this scene to be able to fill in some of the blanks - and half the fun is to see how the events unfolded, or at least might have unfolded.

Just do not expect it to be the gospel truth.

24 Hour Party People is on release in the UK now.

See also:

27 Mar 02 | Film
Coogan's Manchester party time
15 May 01 | Showbiz
Party People shock Cannes
27 Sep 01 | Forum
Music mogul Tony Wilson
24 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Little to play New Order star
08 Aug 01 | Film
Coogan's back - but on Parole
25 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Hašienda mementos sold
05 Apr 02 | Reviews
24 Hour Party People: Your views
09 Apr 02 | Reviews
24 Hour Party People: Press views
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