Fact and fiction mingle gleefully on this disc, to an even greater extent than in the line-blurring film itself. The definitive cinematic take on the Manchester music scene from 1976 to 1992 centers on Factory Records impresario Tony Wilson. His droll asides to the camera ground the film in docu-style reality; the effect is magnified on the disc’s two absorbing commentary tracks. Wilson good-naturedly picks nits, while his screen alter-ego Steve Coogan (along with producer Andrew Eaton) recalls the fun of tapping his own Mancunian roots. Sometimes the accounts conflict, but that only adds more spike to this tangy punch.
It says something about the film’s verisimilitude that the DVD’s two featurettes seem completely superfluous. Docus about the “real” Manchester scene and the “real” Wilson cannot compete with the layered and loopy feature, which manages to hook viewers completely unfamiliar with the music. Some deleted scenes are also included here, but they were deleted for good reason. Aside from not serving the plot, Robby Muller’s DV cinematography — which is capable in the feature — renders them lifeless.
Wilson on the commentary track exhibits all of the self-involved-yet-self-deprecating charm of the screen version. He’s like the party guest being imitated by a gifted mimic; the more he complains about the inaccuracies of the imitation, the more accurate the imitation is proven to be. After initially grousing that Coogan plays him as a “pretentious twat,” Wilson confesses to reciting Proust to strangers and citing Roman philosopher Boethius. “If you don’t know him, you ought to read more,” Wilson cautions.
Coogan, no stranger to deconstructivist narrative thanks to his work on the BBC series “Alan Partridge,” reveals the long strands connecting he and Wilson. As a child, his parents hosted Wilson at a cocktail party (“I remember thinking I had just seen my first superstar,” Coogan chuckles). Coogan’s brother Martin, a onetime member of local band the Mock Turtles, appears fleetingly in the film. For those and many other reasons, Coogan predicts he will remain “painfully nostalgic” about being part of it.