Winterbottom’s theatrical feature debut Butterfly Kiss was released into UK theatres in August 1995. Set in a dystopian environment limited almost entirely to motorways, service stations and motels, it charted the dysfunctional lesbian relationship between the violent and erratic Eunice (Amanda Plummer) and the credulous Miriam (Saskia Reeves). In so doing it offered up a portrayal of Britain that had not previously been seen on its cinema screens. Although the film garnered mixed responses, a couple of reviewers such as Derek Malcolm seized on it as heralding the arrival of a remarkable new talent in British cinema (2). Indeed, the film was to lay out many of the themes and techniques that would come to define Winterbottom’s oeuvre.
“This digital-video biopic uses the life of journalist, record mogul and club owner Tony Wilson to frame the story of the Manchester, England, music scene from the heyday of punk through the late-’80s “Madchester” era. As the founder of staunchly independent Factory Records, Wilson (Steve Coogan) shepherded the careers of doomed post-punk combo Joy Division, synth-pop superstars New Order and hedonistic louts the Happy Mondays. Along the way, he helped bring rave culture to Britain under the aegis of the legendary Hacienda nightclub. 24 Hour Party People follows Wilson from his conversion to punk at a seminal Sex Pistols concert through the suicide of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, the overwhelming success of New Order and the eventual dissolution of the Factory empire thanks to bad business decisions, underworld ties and the hedonistic excess of the Happy Mondays. Directed by Michael Winterbottom and written by frequent collaborator Frank Cottrell Boyce, 24 Hour Party People features cameos from a large number of Manchester music luminaries. The supporting cast includes Shirley Henderson and John Simm, both of whom appeared in Winterbottom’s Wonderland, while the film’s title comes from a Happy Mondays song. —
The life of Paul Raymond, the controversial entrepreneur who became Britain’s richest man.
Director Michael Winterbottom (The Killer Inside Me, The Trip) reunites with 24 Hour Party People star Steve Coogan to tell the sordid tale of English entrepreneur and real-estate developer Paul Raymond (Coogan), who earned the nickname “The King of Soho” after opening London’s first strip club in 1958. But just as Raymond begins to challenge British sexual mores, some accuse him of practicing the same type of hypocrisy that he purported to rail against in the public eye. Stephen Fry, Imogen Poots, and Anna Friel co-star in this biographical period drama scripted by Matt Greenhalgh (Control, Nowhere Boy). Continue reading
A plunge into the world of asylum-seekers driven from their homes by Middle East instability, In This World takes a documentary-like (and, when the guerrilla filmmaking runs into real bullets, just plain documentary) approach to the story of two cousins’ attempt to make their way from the crowded camps of Peshawar, Pakistan to London. Directed by the versatile Michael Winterbottom (The Claim, 24 Hour Party People), it opens with footage of the overwhelming confusion of Peshawar life, accompanied by alarming statistics about the millions of refugees in the world, as well as the way each war only compounds the problem. But statistics tend to drift into the ether when not tied to illustrations, and because In This World was completed before Gulf War II, the statistics are out of date. Continue reading
One man’s small empire threatens to collapse under the weight of his greed and deceit in this drama that transplants the story of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge to 19th century America. In 1867, Dillon (Peter Mullan) is an Irish immigrant who settled in California during the Gold Rush of ’49 and has done quite well for himself. Dillon owns nearly every business of consequence in the town of Kingdom Come; if someone wants to dig for gold, rent a room, open a bank account, or even order a drink, they have to go to Dillon to do it. One of the few profitable enterprises in town that he doesn’t own is the brothel, which is operated by Lucia (Milla Jovovich), Dillon’s lover. But Dillon sees his hold on the town threatened when Dalglish (Wes Bentley) arrives in Kingdom Come. Dalglish is a surveyor with the Central Pacific Railroad, which wants to put a train line through Kingdom Come. Dillon believes that Dalglish’s plans could pull control of Kingdom Come out of his hands, and he’s willing to go to any lengths to see that this doesn’t happen. Arriving in town the same time as Dalglish are two women, the beautiful but ailing Elena (Nastassja Kinski) and her lovely teenage daughter Hope (Sarah Polley); their presence is deeply troubling for Dillon, for they are the keys to a dark secret Dillon has kept from the people of Kingdom Come. The Claim is Michael Winterbottom’s second adaptation of the works of Thomas Hardy; his 1996 feature Jude was adapted from Hardy’s final novel, Jude the Obscure. — Mark Deming Continue reading
Near future. Or is it now?
– How do people live out here?
– It is not living, just existing…
A Future More Nasty, Because It’s So Near
It has long been axiomatic that speculative science-fiction visions of the future must reflect the anxieties of the present: fears of technology gone awry, of repressive political authority and of the erosion of individuality and human freedom. Often these worries are expressed, and to some extent mitigated, by means of extravagant visual fantasies that picture a world of gleaming, high-rise cities, flying cars and soulful robots. Continue reading
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader wrote:
Working without a script, the edgy British independent Michael Winterbottom (24-Hour Party People) shoots a young couple (played by Kieran O’Brien and American nonprofessional Margo Stilley) having real sex and alternates these scenes with numbers from nine London concerts (mostly rock) that their characters attend over a few months. Beautifully shot on DV by Marcel Zyskind, with minimal dialogue but voice-over narration from O’Brien, this 2004 feature is short on story and character yet usually holds its own as spectacle. The music and the body types may be familiar to a fault, but the performances are expressive. Continue reading