Printing the Legend is Lying: A Small Rant About 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE
I happened by chance to come across an old Guardian article that kind of annoyed me. Or reminded me of an annoyance, when I first saw 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE. Tony Wilson, remarking on the film: "It's
all true, it's all not true. It's not a fucking documentary." And even in the film this attitude is directly expressed, to favor "myth" over facts. The "print the legend" quote from MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE--one of the most deeply cynical classic films ever--is used as justification. Now, I don't mean to pick on a dead man here. But I guess I will, because this reminded me of some problems I had with this when I first saw it in 2003. One
major one is: of course you would favor the myth, Tony, because it makes you look like
such a damn hero, walking around as handsome
and witty Steve Coogan in those lovely coats and scarves. These bands
never would have made it but for you and the story of Manchester music
is all about you even though it doesn't include the fucking Smiths. (whom I don't like, but I certainly don't deny their importance) Which is even mentioned at the end. Just the same, the sense is given throughout the film that somehow what you're seeing is the dominant current of What Was Happening In Manchester In That Heady Time. So it has its cake and eats it too. It leaves one with the impression this is THE story, while excusing itself for its many lies.
all about just Wilson, Joy Division, and the Happy Mondays who nobody cared
about five minutes after they crashed and burned and whose music (unlike Joy Division) has
influenced absolutely no one in the long run. And there's nearly
nothing about New Order, who MADE Factory Records. I don't care for them either, but I recognize that, as with the Smiths, I'm in the minority--they were and are huge.
Wilson is portrayed as the dashing hero/martyr/fool for Manchester music. You'd almost think he was its mayor. Bullshit. Joy Division was made by themselves and Martin
Hannett. If it hadn't been Wilson it'd have been another middleman
parasite. Wilson was important and was good to his bands, but let's
remember the film is a self-admitted prolonged piece of egomaniacal
puffery, and, like all Michael Winterbottom films, is
shallow as a puddle while posing as intellectual and postmodern. It's not a bad film, as a film, if you're just looking for something entertaining. But it poses as more.
I would also venture that the myth is what people already know. Why not surprise us instead with what happened? Surely that was sometimes interesting.
"Eternity in the company of Beelzebub, and all of his hellish instruments of death, will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me & this pencil." --E. Blackadder, 1789 Questionable
words & pictures from John Linton Roberson