It’s All Gone Pete Tong (review)

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Tragic and ironic disability. Crippling grief. Implacable personal demons. It sounds weird, but this is hilarious stuff. This impressive second feature from music-video director Michael Dowse pulses with energy and passion and the groove of the rave scene, but its affecting power is fueled by the true story of deejay Frankie Wilde, whose life of hard partying and nonstop pounding music in the clubs and on the beaches of Ibiza caused him to go stone deaf at the height of his creative power and popular success. (If you know your deejays, you know we’re not talking about the guy hired for your cousin’s wedding to play “The Electric Slide” for Grandma, but the kind of artist who uses his almost psychic connection with his audience and with the music to combine and intertwine beats and rhythms in a way that raises playing vinyl to an artform. And if you know your deejays, you’d be forgiven for thinking the flick is about superstar spinner Pete Tong; the title is Cockney rhyming slang that plays off his name and means “it’s all gone wrong.”) Pseudodocumentary in style, the film intersperses talking-head interviews with luminaries of the underground-music world discussing the enigma that was Wilde with dramatized bits in which Frankie (the electrifying Paul Kaye) traverses the ups and downs — mostly the downs — of his own calamity, to an effect that is as outrageous as it is unexpectedly poignant. The hallucinogenic segment in which Frankie’s substance abuse takes on the form of a giant, disgusting skunk furry — which he then proceeds to physically attack — is one of the wisest and wittiest visual depictions of a man literally battling his demons that I’ve seen on film. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny.

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