Party Scenes On Screen

The rain god has blessed Berlin with a deluge this weekend but the crappy weather does have its upside: it gives party animals like me an excuse to stay home and catch up on missing sleep, and relax with a good book or a movie. Below I've listed 12 films (and the books that they were based on, where applicable) which will bring a little slice of club or party lifestyle straight into your living room... for better or for worse! I've listed them in order of preference. The party vibe doesn't have to evaporate just because your desire to go outside has, you know...

1. Its All Gone Pete Tong - 2004
The only reason this is number one instead of Trainspotting is that it is entirely about club culture, whereas Trainspotting merely crosses paths with it. It’s All Gone Pete Tong is hilarious, surreal and it satirizes Ibiza's club scene with lethal accuracy.
DJ Frankie Wilde is the perfect antidote to the modern ‘serious’ DJ and his self-reverential mythos. Paul curses, spits and flings his decks at his baying audience simply because he does not give a fuck... and also, because he's angry about being deaf. Oh, did I forget to mention that detail? Watch it, if only to find out how he overcomes this rather large obstacle to his musical success.

Trivia: Paul Kaye, who plays DJ Frankie Wilde in the film, once played in a punk band which would set fire to the stage as part of their sets.

2. Trainspotting - 1996
Based on Irvine Welsh's novel of the same name, Trainspotting walks the viewer through the moral and cultural melting-pot of early 90s UK youth culture. We see life through the eyes of an unemployed heroin addict as he moves from the seedy naivete of provincial nightlife, through to the trippy decadence of big city clubbing.
The club scenes in Trainspotting may only serve as a backdrop for the brilliantly twisted tale, but they manage to perfectly capture the atmosphere of that time. Irvine Welsh is no stranger to parties himself, and it shows.

Trivia: The London drug deal sequence in the movie takes place in a real pub, the George Robey. The George Robey was also the birthplace of 'Club Dog', itself a staple of London’s early rave scene.

3. Morvern Callar - 2002
Based on Alan Warner’s novel of the same name, Morvern Callar is a moody gem. It follows a young woman, Morvern, as she flees the reality of her boyfriend’s suicide through a series of increasingly escapist adventures. Music and drugs are the twin torches guiding her through a world which has been suddenly deprived of all reason. Are parties part of the adventure or are they the destination in themselves? We don’t know and probably never will, but sheer curiosity keeps us watching as Morvern wades farther out of the mainstream, waiting to see if she will be washed away. Visceral scenes like that of a fierce, Spanish gabber party, will stick in your mind long after the end credits roll.

4. Human Traffic - 1999
Human Traffic is not so much a story as it is a cinematic glossary of late 90s UK club stereotypes... and I do mean that in a good way. Dry and biting but still warm and playful, it's a great film for when you’re crashing out with friends.

101 Rekjavik - 2000

Based on a novel of the same name by Hallgrímur Helgason. Hylmur, the main character, is struggling to come to terms with his mother’s newfound sexuality and her newfound sexual partner, Lola, whom he happens to fancy. He finds an outlet for his frustrations in 101 Reykjavik, the city’s main club district. Endless parties ensue, the consequences of which are far more memorable, and unpleasant, than the parties themselves.

6. Go - 1999
Uses an illegal rave as the setting for an Alice In Wonderland-style adventure through the world of crime. After a young girl’s drug deal goes horribly wrong, three different story lines are brought together by random circumstances, culminating at an underground rave. The rave itself is more of an amusing plot device than anything, but it adds a nice indie angle to the Pulp Fiction school of film-making. A fun film.

Trivia: The film's writer, John August, was also the mastermind behind Big Fish (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Corpse Bride (2005).


Groove - 2000

My first impressions of this film were, “crappy, low-budget, and pretentious”. But then the crew switched on the power in the warehouse and the DJ's started spinning and suddenly, I felt like I was there.
Many of the faces in this film come from the San Francisco warehouse rave scene and the film was shot in a bona fide squatted venue. As a result, the party sequences are so good that they pretty much eliminate the need for any sort of storyline. I can overlook all sorts of bad writing if it means getting a close-up of the San Francisco scene in its idealistic, fluorotastic heyday!

Trivia: DJ Forest Green, who appears in the film, still spins at underground parties in the US and worldwide.

8. Party Monster - 2003
Depicts the life and times of Michael Alig, founder of New York City's ‘Disco 2000’ club. 'Disco 2000' was the first N.Y. club to fuse acid house and queer culture during the 1980s and as a consequence, it helped to kick-start U.S. rave culture. Party Monster is based on the true crime novel "Disco Bloodbath" by James St. James. Knowing that these events really happened makes Alig's crimes all the more shocking, just as it makes his flashmob-style parties - which took place in subway trains and fast food restaurants - all the more thrilling.

Trivia: Marilyn Manson portrays a junkie drag queen in the film.

9. Berlin Calling - 2008

Berlin Calling is pretty much a retelling of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest where Paul Kalkbrenner styles himself as a modern version of the protagonist.
Thankfully, the directors did not succumb to the temptation to dress up Berlin’s club scene in any way during filming. That, along with the soundtrack, are the film’s saving graces because the plot is a tad thin on its own. Scenes shot live in Bar 25 and Club Maria have turned this film into an modern relic, immortalizing clubs which have already become casualties of the ongoing re-development of Berlin.

10. 24-Hour Party People - 2002
Another true story, this time tracing the rise of Manchester’s Hacienda club. 24-Hour Party People follows the story of Tony Wilson, the founder of Factory Records, through his involvement with New Order, the Happy Mondays, the Hacienda and the Madchester party scene. His perspective lends the film a business-like feel, resulting in an atmosphere so sterile, at times, that you wonder where they got their party spirit from. My own encounters with club owners have been pretty similar however, so I can’t claim that it’s inaccurate. It’s just not very upbeat.

11. Southwest 9 - 2001
Curiously, SW9 barely made the radar in the London squat scene where it was made. As a result, it is almost impossible to find, which is why I have never watched it. What I do know is that the storyline follows a party organizer who is trying to sort out a club night in one of Brixton’s many all-night venues.

Trivia: Some of SW9's scenes were shot in the Cooltan, one of Brixton’s longest-running squats.

12. Ecstasy - 2011
An awful film, Ecstasy is a middle-aged, male fantasy of how drug-addled ravers should look and behave. Basically that translates into: hot, blonde, female and up for sex anywhere, any time, with anyone. Yes, these tweeny celeb wannabes might be screwed-up, but only in the most superficial way - presumably so the male viewers can fantasize about rescuing them from themselves. They are bored little rich girls whose only definite problems are school and their missing Daddies, who all moved away because their Mommies wanted a divorce. The message is clear: all these hotties really need is a strong man and some religion to tame them. Puke. O. Rama.

This film is not to be confused with the forthcoming adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s book ‘Ecstasy’.


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