Factory Records - From Joy Division To Happy Mondays

The story of the rise and fall of the most successful independent record label in British rock music history.

Documentary celebrating the triumph, tragedy and human comedy that was Manchester record company, Factory. Started by the late Tony Wilson, Alan Erasmus, Peter Saville and Martin Hannett in the late 1970s, it became known as the home of Joy Divsion, New Order and Happy Mondays and for creating the Hacienda club. The label pioneered Britain's independent pop culture, creating a new Manchester and blowing a shed-load of money. Includes interviews with all the main players in the Factory story.

24 Hour Party People (2002)

"24 Hour Party People," which tells the story of the Manchester music scene from the first Sex Pistols concert until the last bankruptcy, shines with a kind of inspired madness. It is based on fact, but Americans who don't know the facts will have no trouble identifying with the sublime posturing of its hero, a television personality named Tony Wilson, who takes himself seriously in a way that is utterly impossible to take seriously.

As the film opens, Wilson is attending the first, legendary Sex Pistols concert in Manchester, England. Here and elsewhere, director Michael Winterbottom subtly blends real newsreel footage with fictional characters so they all fit convincingly into the same shot. Wilson is transfixed by the Pistols as they sing "Anarchy in the U.K." and sneer at British tradition. He tells the camera that everyone in the audience will leave the room transformed and inspired, and then the camera pans to show a total of 42 people, two or three of them half-heartedly dancing in the aisles.

Tony Wilson, who preaches "anarchism" not as a political position but as an emotional state, knows he has seen the future. He joins with two partners to form Factory Records, which would become one of the most important and least financially successful recording companies in history, and joyously signs the contract in his blood (while declaring "we will have no contracts"). His bands include Joy Division (renamed New Order after the suicide of its lead singer) and Happy Mondays. His company opens a rave club, the Hacienda, which goes broke because the customers ignore the cash bars and spend all their money on Ecstasy.
The movie works so well because it evokes genuine, not manufactured, nostalgia. It records a time when the inmates ran the asylum, when music lovers got away with murder. It loves its characters. It understands what the Sex Pistols started, and what the 1990s destroyed. And it gets a certain tone right. It kids itself. At one point, Wilson looks straight at the camera and tells us that a scene is missing, "but it will probably be on the DVD." As the screenwriter of an ill-fated Sex Pistols movie, I met Rotten, Vicious, Paul Cook, Steve Jones and their infamous manager, Malcolm McLaren, and brushed the fringe of their world. I could see there was no plan, no strategy, no philosophy, just an attitude. If a book on the Sex Pistols had an upraised middle finger on the cover, it wouldn't need any words inside. And yet Tony Wilson goes to see the Pistols and sees before him a delirious opportunity to--to what? Well, obviously, to live in one of the most important times in human history, and to make your mark on it by going down in glorious flames.

A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of Joy Division whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.

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