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Shadowplayers: Factory Records & Manchester Post-Punk 1978-1981

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This is the absolute best video biography of the only relevant period of Factory Records (1978-1981), featuring interviews with Tony Wilson, Peter Saville, Peter Hook, Chris Watson, and members of Durutti Column, Section 25, A Certain Ratio, The Names, and many more.  Unfortunately, compared to what the public has to go on, that's not saying much.

 

LTM

James Nice, the founder/operator of LTM Recordings has assembled this documentary, conducting all the interviews and packaging it in the Saville artwork used for FAC1 - a poster the original Factory club.  James Nice is easily the most qualified person to do it as he has been reissuing deleted catalog items from the Factory labels and Les Disques du Crepuscule for years. I would rather an avid collector and rabid expert undertake this type of project than a veteran documentor who might not know all the bases to cover.

The interviews are insightful and very amusing.  Each player tells the story about the formation of the Factory club and record label, their intentions, and personal stories. It covers the rise and fall of Joy Division, the personality of producer Martin Hannett, and stretches to include the Factory Benelux and Factory NY operations. It's amazing to see for ourselves how self-centered and pompous most of these Brits actually are: Vini Reilly disowns his early music; Section 25 boast about how they think their package was the most expensive package ever made; Tony Wilson's title mysteriously changes from label owner to band manager and always lists him as "Anthony H. Wilson;" and Peter Hook discounts Peter Saville's importance as a cover artist. It does a poor job of discounting the presumption that all British musicians eventually become more self-important than their music and end up hating each other in the end.

What makes this documentary mediocre on the whole, however, is that it basically seems unfinished.  The lack of cover images, archival photographs, videos, and music is a big let-down. While it's certainly no small task to legally clear rights for the volumes of video, music, and artwork, Shadowplayers could easily serve the purpose as a screener to demonstrate to bigger production houses that have legal departments who do have the ability to chase down copyright holders and seek their permissions. I would have been happy to wait for something more complete. Furthermore, as this is captured on home video equipment, extra technical steps should have been taken to make it look less like an amateur production, adding filters and equilizing sound. With the imminent retail release of this DVD, however, it's too late to hold it back and give it to somebody like Plexifilm to complete the job nicely. Regardless, this is still the best biographical feature of this scene on the market to date.

 


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