Blue Monday

Via this EW column , I found out that Tony Wilson died Friday, at the age of 57, from kidney cancer. Wilson was a journalist, TV personality, and according to New Order's bassist, "Manchester's biggest cunt"; he was also the founder of Factory Records, the label that signed New Order (and its earlier incarnation, Joy Division), The Happy Mondays, and other seminal British bands of the 80s and 90s, and the first TV personality to put the Sex Pistols on television, in 1977. In 1982, he opened the Hacienda club, which would become a center of music, culture and rampant drug use, prompting this anecdote, which seems to encapsulate all the various accounts of WIlson's unique brilliance/stupidity ratio:

"Although it gained a worldwide reputation, Wilson's superclub also attracted the attention of unsavoury local gangs, and in 1991 "the Hac" was temporarily closed down following a spate of drug-related shootings.

The entrance was redesigned, and a £10,000 metal detector installed to guard against guns and knives being smuggled inside. Wilson recalled arriving for the reopening as "the metal detector was going mental, beep-beep-beeping constantly. It was then we realised that the Hacienda had metal floors."

Such tales are at the heart of 2002's 24-Hour Party People, Michael Winterbottom's brilliant mockumentary/history of the so-called "Madchester" scene, and Wilson's attempts to be its mogul. Comic/actor Steve Coogan plays Wilson with a winning blend of charm, slime, calculation and cluelessness, and Winterbottom knows that it's less important to "tell the truth" about what happened than to give a sense of the period's whimsy, idealism and madness. The result is a film that shakes and shimmers, not denying its affection for its subjects (its propulsively ramshackle, try-anything style seems to mimic the music's basslines: you're thrown from one comic moment to the next, but you feel energized, not annoyed), but also looking at them with clear eyes and a necessary amount of sarcasm and mockery. Between its plays with time, delight in tweaking form, and using those stylistic tics to explore the intersection of art, journalism, sex and commerce, 24-Hour Party People is kind of like Citizen Kane-- if Rosebud turned out to be a coke spoon, and Charles Foster Kane swallowed it.


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