In recent years Michael Winterbottom has made films in Estonia, India & one which took 5 years to shoot as the director waited for his child actors to grow. His last brush with the mainstream was a well-judged adaptation of “The Killer Inside Me” (2010) with 3 proper Hollywood stars. At the first whiff of controversy this enjoyable film was buried. If you are at all serious about apprehending the spirit of Jim Thomson then your film will contain brutish, amoral, psychopathic violence…I mean really ! Winterbottom’s new film is his 3rd (plus a TV series) made with Steve Coogan, a very funny man who’s big screen career does not reflect his talent. A re-make of “Around the World in 80 Days” ?…with Jackie Chan as Passepartout ? Oh yeah, that’ll work. The Alan Partridge movie has been a long time coming. The Winterbottom films & a cameo in “In The Loop” are, up to now, the only work to stand alongside his TV character comedy.
“24 Hour Party People” covers the Manchester music scene from the arrival of the Pistols in 1976, the adventures of Factory records to an inevitable bankruptcy in 1992 as excess, a groundbreaking but loss making club & allowing the drug-fucked Happy Mondays to record in the crack capital of the world converged to cause a crisis too far. Tony Wilson (Coogan) is the bulls-eye of the tale. As a presenter on local TV news he was already a face but if you lived in Manchester & liked music (as I did) then he was bloody ubiquitous. OK, he had the best club, the best bands were on his label but really he was always there. Just as he was at the Lesser Free Trade Hall for that first Manc punk gig. Winterbottom informs us who the players are in his story & how he intends to tell that story in a different way.
This ain’t no rock/mock/doc/biopic “I Walk the Line” nonsense. It is a proper attempt at rock & roll myth making, playing fast & loose with the facts when it suits, being more concerned with the substance, energy & ideas. The Rock Gospels, from Elvis walking into Sun Studios to Woodstock/Altamont are affidavits guarded by a generation who have taken themselves way too seriously. Let the new fables kick against the pricks, show the art & the artifice.The clip of the real Pistols fused into this scene is from an entirely different gig & it really does not matter. In the later “A Cock & Bull Story” Winterbottom & Coogan mix it up even more exhilaratingly. It is a cliche about Tony Wilson that he got things done but he was a wanker. He really did seem to love any kind of attention. Well he may have been a fool but he was our fool & “24 H.P.P.” is one of the best films about music around because it is about the people, the drugs, the city. To quote Don Logan,” It’s the charge, it’s the bolt, it’s the buzz, it’s the sheer fuck off-ness of it all” .
“Bringing Out The Dead” (1999) is the 4th &, to date, final collaboration between director Martin Scorsese & writer Paul Schrader. So there’s faith, guilt, redemption then, it’s what they do. This character study (there’s little plot) of a paramedic struggling to see anything good in an Infernal New York is more than “Taxi Driver II”. Frank’s (Nicholas Cage) contact with the doomed & the dying give him nightmares which have infiltrated his days. Cage gives one of those performances which will prevent you from watching any more than 3 minutes of “Ghost Rider:Spirit of Vengeance”. The script, cinematography & direction grab you by the balls & the throat. The reason “Bringing Out..” is not regarded as classic Scorsese is that there are fewer touches for a broader audience this time around. No Joe Pesci swearing & killing motherfluffers imaginatively, this is black & barely comedy. It could be Scorsese/Schrader “fin de siecle” but I prefer, in the spirit of New York punk, End of the Century.
The film has the usual classy & spacious soundtrack from both Bernsteins through Motown & reggae to R.E.M. But this is Scorsese’s punkiest movie & the use of “Janie Jones” is perfect in this scene with Cage & ready-for-rehab Tom Sizemore crunching through the mean streets taking direction from the disembodied voice of the man himself. Hey, I’m so bored with the USA.
Hey ho, let’s go. I have finally managed to get “Repo Man” (1984) on to one of these posts & about time too. It is not good enough to invoke the spirit of the B-movie, the exploitation movie, then just stand back & expect to be admired. That spirit, one of imagination & audacity wins over any budget restrictions. I am going to give Tim Burton “Ed Wood” but “Mars Attacks !” had a $70 million dollar budget & $5 of that was for ingenuity. “Repo Man” is as ramshackle as “Dark Star” & “Eating Raoul” , like both these films,it nails an attitude so adroitly that it transcends any cult status & is just a great film.Of course it takes a film made away from Hollywood to get punk on to celluloid properly. Stuff happens in my life every week that makes me think “what would Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) do ?” Look at those assholes, ordinary fucking people. I hate ’em.”…Only joking, or am I ?
Emilio Estevez as Otto, “a clean-cut kid in a dirty business” makes his case to be regarded as the likeable Sheen brother. 30 years later there has been no reason for anyone to doubt him. Director Alex Cox, an Englishman abroad, talked a good fight too, looking back to John Ford & Nicholas Ray as touchstones for his punk rock, sci-fi, B-movie comedy…cheeky beggar. He got the “Sid & Nancy” gig because of “Repo Man”. I thought he did a good job. Both films have a fine sense of the ridiculous, playing fast & loose with facts or reality. Subsequent movies were criticised for being too political, too rough, too clever or too stupid, as if any of these was a bad thing. He had to spend too much time scratching around for enough money to just make the films & they are all worth a watch. Any road up, here is the closing scene of “Repo Man”. “What about our relationship ? Fuck that !”, a flying, glowing car & a song that Iggy Pop wrote for the film. Gotta send you out of the cinema with a smile on your face & a safety-pin stuck in your heart.