Top positive review
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The Chicken's still dancing.....
on 6 February 2003
The story of Factory Records & the Hacienda is a long and complex one, full of urban myths and legends, humour, tragedy and some of the best music ever made.
Inevitably, the film struggles to contain its vast subject matter and was apparently edited down from 3 hours. In the end, Michael Winterbottom has made a film which reflects the myth and the truth of Factory in equal measures. The film leaps wildly from hyper-realism (The Hacienda interior is re-created down to the last brick, even inviting back the original punters to re-create the atmosphere for one last time) to pure fantasy (Happy Mondays trip to Barbados is re-created as a scene from Robinson Crusoe).
The film features so many enigmatic characters, and several who deserve a bio-pic of their own. Shaun Ryder and the late Rob Gretton, Ian Curtis and Martin Hannett.
To narrow the scope, the film is “seen” through the eyes of Tony Wilson, although on the DVD commentary, Wilson points out that he has fought tooth and nail to have some scenes left out which he insists are entirely untrue. Bizarrely, Wilson still holds down a job as a respected newsreader on Granada TV despite the film depicting him romping with prostitutes and taking copious amounts of drugs. The film itself makes some playful contrasts between Wilson’s life as TV presenter, and that as director of a chaotic, anarchic record label and nightclub. We cut from Wilson living it up on the tour bus with Happy Mondays, to Wilson conducting a banal interview with a pensioner for local TV news.
Like Factory, the film is messy, inconsistent and bloody-minded. But like Factory, it looks great and the music is good. Coogan is great, if a little Partridge-esque as Wilson. Paddy Considine captures New Order’s late manager, Rob Gretton to perfection. There are funny little cameo appearances from everyone from Peter Kay to Howard Devoto, some wonderful period re-creations of 80s Manchester, and a few moments of genius.
Just to have a feature film on this subject is astonishing in itself.
And on the DVD, 8 hours of extras. Perhaps best is the commentary from Wilson himself, which is intelligent, funny and insightful. You also get a commentary from Coogan and the Director, short interviews with many of the people involved with Factory and the Manchester music scene, 24 clips from the cutting-room floor, trailers, a New Order video featuring John Simm. And on the second disc, Wilson conducts a fascinating interview Peter Saville, whose beautiful designs were such an integral part of Factory and influence the aesthetic of Manchester music, culture and clubland to this day. Also on the disc is a documentary about Michael Winterbottom and a video commentary from various associated persons such as New Order’s Peter Hook. This is a little bit hit & miss, as they really spend most of the film reminiscing about the Hacienda rather than commenting on the film itself. Its quite entertaining though, and it does feature the great Bruce Mitchell, drummer with Durutti Column and a man who wasn’t in the film despite the fact that he was present at every event featured. He even did the lighting for the Sex Pistols gig that opens the film.
All in all, a good value for money package. The extras really add to your enjoyment of the film, especially if you are unfamiliar with the context of the film and the whole Factory and Hacienda story.