‘Joy Division’ – 8.5/10

‘Don’t turn away…’
Portrait of Joy Division

People often speculate about what a third Joy Division album would have sounded like or how a fourth Nirvana record would have turned out. In both cases people wring their hands about being robbed of what surely would have been an essential piece of work. To yearn for a lost masterpiece from either band though is to miss the point. Both Kurt Cobain and Joy Division singer Ian Curtis were tortured souls and both bands were doomed from the start. The fact that their lights shone so briefly is what makes their frustratingly small musical output so astonishing. No matter how successful both groups became (and arguably because of this) the alienation, loneliness and drug addiction(Cobain)/epilepsy(Curtis) would have got them in the end.

Joy Division is an exhaustive bbc4 documentary taking in the bands humble beginnings as Warsaw after forming at the infamous Sex Pistols gig at the Manchester Free Trade Hall to Curtis’ death on the eve of an America tour.

While it is really interesting to see interviews with Tony Wilson (RIP) and to see and hear archive footage from producer Martin Hannett and Joy Division manager Rob Gretton, it is the interviews with the band themselves as well as the live footage from the shows that leave a lasting impression.


Hooky, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris make for insightful and funny interviewees and while the story of Joy Division and Curtis is a dark one, the three former band mates inject a lot of warmth and poignancy in to what is a brilliant documentary.

Totally essential for any Joy Division/New Order fan, Joy Division would also make a great introduction for anyone interesting in discovering Joy Division for the first time.

Joy Division is unflashy yet full of bravado, visceral yet funny. I get the feeling that Curtis would have approved…

24 Hour Party People – 8/10

‘I’m a minor player in my own life story’ – Tony Wilson


As Steve Coogan’s Tony Wilson states in the film ‘This is a film about the music’ (Primarily Joy Division/New Order and the Happy Mondays) but it is told from Wilson’s point of view.

Coogan plays Wilson as a sort of Partridge lite but it is still a dominant performance. The cream of the crop of British comedy talent at the time are all lurking around somewhere with John Thomson, Peter Kay, Simon Pegg, Rob Brydon and Ralf Little lending support as well as Paddy Considine, an absolutely hilarious Andy Serkis as madcap producer Martin Hannett and a perfectly cast John Simm as Bernard Sumner. On a side note, when asked about the film Bernard Sumner commented ‘A film about the biggest cunt in Manchester, played by the second biggest cunt in Manchester’.


The first half of 24 Hour Party People can hold it’s head up high with any biopic, musical or otherwise, as it focuses on the rise and tragic fall of Joy Division and the beginnings of Factory Records. The second half, touching on the opening of the Hacienda nightclub and the emergence of The Happy Mondays is not quite as compelling but always funny and visually interesting. 

24 Hour Party People is a film full of charm and laugh out loud humour throughout, plus the soundtrack is predictably wonderful and controversial director Michael Winterbottom has a visual flair that drives the story. If you are interested in the 80’s/90’s Madchester scene then 24HPP is essential viewing.