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British Film Director Michael Winterbottom
Chameleon or Opportunist

An Alex Grant Review

24 Hour Party People

Since his initial outing as director of a theatrical feature-film Butterfly Kiss, the prolific young U.K. Michael Winterbottom, whose 8 films in 8 years include Jude,Welcome to Sarajevo,The Claim and the current Twenty Four Hour Party People, must surely have broken all records worldwide for churning features out lickety-split.

Winterbottom’s oeuvre bounces from the wildly ambitious – not one but two adaptations of Thomas Hardy novels; The Claim is a Gold Rush setting of Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge; to the freaky, headache inducing Twenty Four Hour Party People, a frenzied hyperactive recreation of the music scene that anticipated the rave’n’Ecstasy epidemic in Eighties’ Manchester. A highly subjective biopic of wannabe empire builder and impresario Tony Wilson, played to perfection by comedian Steve Coogan. Winterbottom’s latest assembly-line opus is definitely a blast from the past –a blast of hot air.

Wilson is a thoroughgoing pseud, what the Brits mean by this, a pretentious prick, always ready to indulge the most appalling pretension and an incorrigible poseur.

Twenty Four Hour veers from tragedy to farce with astonishing skill, yet seldom attains more than a bittersweet nostalgia for a nihilistic era of hedonism for young folk with a champagne taste on a fish’n’chips budget. The only recent film silimilar in tone is Doug Liman’s 'Go'.

Such a seemingly recklessly productive career as Winterbottom’s begs the question is he a chameleon ? Or an opportunist,or both? His films have yet to display the thread of character,plot and theme that are felt to be the imprimatur of a genuine auteur film director.

Many consider Wonderland to be his one masterly work, a quintessential London movie. Centuries from now Wonderland will be the most accurate depiction of Twentieth Century Londoners. Perhaps also Twenty Four Hour Party People will become the fundamental Manchester movie of all time?

Just what will Michael Winterbottom get up to next ? He has done a Western, a Musical, a War Movie.Will he soon enter the Guinness Book of Records as the Twenty First Century’s busiest director? At a time when even well-established ones rarely make a new film every second year. It is worth remembering that it is 6 years since Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.

© Alex Grant September 2002


Alex Grant
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