News & Reviews
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
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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