The story of Factory Records is a comedy of errors (the money losing Blue Monday 12″), wanton bullishness over professionalism (the Joy Division contract giving them the right to ‘fuck off’ written in label boss Tony Wilson’s blood) and a series of successful accidents (the initially cash haemorrhaging club Hacienda).
With all the above situations then it made total sense for Steve Coogan to take control of telling the story as the label’s head protagonist, Tony Wilson.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom and released in 2002, 24 Hour Party People is based on Factory Records legends; some real, some not, but why let the whole truth gets in the way of a good story?
A surprise hit considering the majority of the big bands on the label, although deeply influential, could hardly be considered part of the mainstream. Joy Division had one minor hit in Ian Curtis’ lifetime, Happy Mondays had a handful and New Order only had one chart-topping single, that being a god-awful football song.
Star of the show is of course Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge as Tony Wilson; he portrays the endearing but pretentious mannerisms of Tony Wilson perfectly as Paddy Considine shines as a particularly unpredictable Rob Gretton.
The film, like Factory’s existence is in three thirds; the depressing monotone Manchester is a backdrop for big ideas for a little city, slowly morphing into optimism cut short by THAT suicide. The middle; New Order and Happy Mondays ruling the charts, the Hacienda running Manchester nightlife and ecstasy making previously repressed Northerners love one another. If you experienced the Hacienda at its heights you’ll be forgiven for thinking that they used footage of the actual place in the film as it was that realistic.
The final third is the messy fall of the empire; the success of the Hacienda caught the inevitable attention of the dodgy dealers and gangsters wanting a piece of the pie as Tony Wilson’s drug addiction culminated in the closure of Factory and The Hacienda as bands failed to provide decent albums. Regular appearances of guns in the club ended up with regular closures until it did so for good. Factory’s legacy lives on in Hacienda Heights, luxury city centre apartments and Manchester has Factory to thank for its current thriving city status.
A hit, mainly because of the story of success over tragedy, a brilliant soundtrack (what, no Northside?), hilarious throughout and one of the best music based films of all time.
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