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REVIEW: It’s All Gone Pete Tong captures DJ culture, Ibiza decadence
By BPM Smith

Admit it, you’ve had this DJ fantasy: Blow up large, cut an album and embark on an extended Ibiza tour, accompanied by a drop-dead gorgeous wife. What if you suddenly go deaf, drug hallucinations have you raving mad, and the wife runs away with your own friend?

Director Michael Dowse takes the real-life tragedy of DJ Pete Tong and emerges with a film that is funny, biting and touching all at once, in his second feature-length effort, It’s All Gone Pete Tong.

The film opens with fictional DJ Frankie Wilde spinning circles (see records on a turntable) in a dilapidated, windowless room. Actor Paul Kaye plays this frame-of-mind convincingly, unshaven, crazy as hell.

Flash back to Frankie and his wife, model/actress Sonya Slowinski, doing television interviews on the beaches of Ibiza, a legendary party scene captured in picturesque shots of oceans, boats and sweaty clubs by cinematographer Balasz Bolygo. Frankie also enjoys freaky group sex and consumes boatloads of cocaine. The life of a famous DJ, baby.

Frankie does fit in a bunch of club performances, his entourage amusingly guiding him to the DJ booth like a boxer into a ring. The gossip tabloids cover Frankie’s excess. Crowds fawn, groupies sigh, and his hilariously aggressive manager Max Haggar, portrayed by Mike Wilmot, demands a second album.

This is where deafness hampers the life of a star DJ. Frankie can no longer cue up records. Ever try blind mixing without a cue-up? Guaranteed train wreck.

Director Dowse sucks in the audience with rapid point-of-view shifts in sound and image, so even those who have never hit the decks understand the confusion and anxiety of a DJ blowing it in front of an audience. Unable to produce or DJ, Frankie hits bottom after getting a cocaine lobotomy and Sonya leaves him.

With help from a cute Spanish therapist, Frankie first learns how to read lips, then grasps how to feel bass by standing next to club speakers -- any club-goer who tries to feel rather than simply hear bass knows this feeling -- and eventually produces new tracks by counting drum beats and attaching thong sandals to speakers.

You knew his comeback was on tap. Even in Europe, they love to see you rise to the top after dropping off an abyss. Frankie doesn’t care if the "slut" reporters think he made up this deaf thing for hype -- "Sluts are good!" says manager Max -- he’s back to making music, living the dream every DJ aspires to.

It’s All Gone Pete Tong is an amusing and inspired depiction of the club scene that also shows human frailty is something that can be overcome. It’s now playing in San Francisco Bay Area theatres and opens nationwide on May 13.

Rating: 4 stars

Scale: 5 stars: Incredible!…4 stars: Excellent…3 stars: Good…2 stars: Mediocre…1 star: Lame!

The experiment. Think that a deaf DJ is impossible? I pulled a controlled study for our WORD’N’BASS.com skeptics. Working off four stations (two turntables, two CD mixers), I mixed a drum & bass set without headphones to cue up the next record, using just the monitor lights as a guide for my "deaf mix."

It’s hard as hell but you can match beats by watching the monitor. Another trick, not alluded to in It’s All Gone Pete Tong, is observing the grooves in your vinyl. Without listening, you can see where the bass-lines stop and start, and make transitions only when the needle is on the record’s thin grooves. Do-able, yes. A great set, hell no.

Tale of two films. Pre-release hype is often a sign of box office success -- or failure. The final press screening for It’s All Gone Pete Tong, which was open to the public, saw upwards of 500 RSVPs for a 250-seat theatre in San Francisco. A long line of hipsters wound through Embarcadero 1 and more than a few likely got turned away.

Meanwhile, during the same week I hear the premier for House of Wax, the latest project to try and cash in on Paris Hilton's fame, was "a disaster." In Hollywood, disaster means nobody showed up. Event organizers reportedly had to let in a bunch of UCLA students to avoid the embarrassment of an empty theatre.


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