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It's All Gone Pete Tong (2004)

The Legend of Frankie Wilde - the Deaf DJ

Directed by:

Michael Dowse

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 90 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Country: United Kingdom, Canada

For the past 11 years, Frankie Wilde (Paul Kaye) has been “top international DJ god” at Ibiza. His legions of fans, his trophy wife Sonya (Kate Magowan), his entrepreneurial agent Max (Mike Wilmot), his Austrian session musicians and the record company executive Jack (Neil Maskell) have all been happy to indulge, even applaud, the drugs, alcohol, and women that constitute Frankie’s wild lifestyle – just so long as he remains a genius at the turntables and the mixing desk. When, however, he drifts from tinnitus to complete, irreversible deafness, everyone abandons him and he has a breakdown. Re-emerging months later from seclusion and madness, he cleans himself up, learns lipreading from the equally deaf Penelope (Beatriz Batarda), and falls in love. Realising that beats and basslines can be felt as well as heard, he begins his comeback – but does he now want to return to his old life?

Near the beginning of Michael ‘FUBAR’ Dowse’s ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’, Frankie, dressed as Jesus, deathslides over Manumission’s cheering clubbers into a pool below. It is a striking image of excess, but also heralds Frankie’s coming baptism and rebirth. The ‘triumphant recovery’ story arc can hardly be called original – for the type of plot wherein a man at his peak suffers a terrible setback, but then faces up to his personal demon and crawls right back to the top again, has already featured prominently in such varied films as The Aviator, ‘Shine’, ’21 Mile’, ‘The Fisher King’, and just about any sports film ever made (including Kaye’s previous bowling comedy Blackball). Yet in none of these films is the protagonist’s personal demon portrayed as a giant mumbling badger dressed in a torn pink party dress, brandishing a tinselly fairy’s wand and a spadeful of cocaine.

Opening with the claim “The following is based on a true story…”, ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’ is a feature-length mockumentary, structured like one of those cheap television ‘where are they know?’ scandal stories about washed-up celebrities. The narrative is regularly interrupted by talking heads – some fictional interviewees mashed up seamlessly with real figures from the dance music scene (including Carl Cox, Tiesto, Paul Van Dyke, Sarah Main, Charlie Chester, and of course radio DJ Pete Tong) – who reminisce about the highs and lows in Frankie’s career. It is a neat postmodern trick, as though this were not so much a raw cut of Frankie’s life as the club remix. Yet even if Frankie himself is a monster (albeit a loveable one) ruled by shallowness, narcosis and denial, the real DJs and Ibiza luminaries who comment on his legend seem, by contrast, articulate and grounded, so that their inclusion tends to blunt, rather than sharpen, the film’s satirical edge. Only the digs at the mercenary, exploitative and clueless nature of the record industry come out loud and clear enough for even the deaf to feel the hammering.

‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’ boasts a blankly irreverent central performance from Paul ‘Dennis Pennis’ Kaye, some hilariously off-the-wall lines, a great line-up of records on the soundtrack, and clever manipulations of sound and image to convey Frankie’s diminished powers of hearing. Ultimately, though, it is the intrusion of genuine drama into the comedy that makes for a surprising, if to my mind uneven, mix.

It's Got: Frog-licking.

It Needs: Greater sharpness to the satire of the Ibiza scene.

Alternatives:

24 Hour Party People, Blackball, Human Traffic, South West Nine

Summary

An Ibiza DJ is a mashed-up mix of Jesus, Beethoven and idiot in this tragicomic mockumentary.

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