It’s All Gone Pete Tong (2004) dir. Michael Dowse
Starring: Paul Kaye, Kate Magowan, Mike Wilmot, Beatriz Batarda
In the 90’s there were a horde of “rave” films capitalizing on the popularity of the clubbing culture – that is youngsters who spent their nights in a drug-fueled haze of dance and electronic music. Though it missed the wave slightly, the absolute best film of the bunch of Michael Dowse’s “It’s All Gone Pete Tong”.
While Dowse’s first film 'Fubar' was realized via the mockumentary ultra-no budget approach, “Tong” is a glossy, slick 35mm beautiful film to behold shot in the Mecca of the rave scene – Ibiza. The landscape of the Spanish island is gorgeous no matter where Dowse puts his camera, and his indoor rave scenes capture the awesome beauty of a thousand revelers dancing in sync behind a myriad of coloured lights and lasers. The high-energy excitement of these scenes is as authentic as being there and Dowse bottles it all.
Paul Kaye, a British comedian, disappears into the skin of the film’s tragic and flawed hero, Frankie Wilde. Introduced via a series of interviews with real DJs and celebrities talking about the legend of the man, Frankie Wilde is one of the world's great DJs who spins his records in a giant arena-sized nightclub. He lives with his trophy wife Sonja (Kate Magowan) and their young son, who going by his skin colour, is probably not his.
Wilde has a major cocaine problem though and his drug-addicted life gets in the way of a proper domestic lifestyle. But then again, it's Ibiza and everyone is high on something. But when Wilde discovers he’s going deaf, a piece of him dies, his one true love in the world appears to be lost. But when a glimmer of hope reveals itself, Wilde seizes it and makes a comeback worthy of the legend of his name.
Dowse has been quoted as saying, he wanted this film to ‘rip cinema a new asshole’ and the roll call of debaucherous characters and situations put onto the screen nearly accomplishes this feat. Paul Kaye's over-the-top bombastic performance of shouting, lewd behaviour and a lot of nasty cockney f-bombs helps to accomplish this and Canadian comic Mike Wilmot as Wilde’s manic manager is wonderful fast-talking obnoxious cliche. "Pete Tong” must also set the record for the most cocaine featured on film, making "Scarface" look tame. In fact Wilde’s nemesis is a fantasy badger which tosses buckets of cocaine on him to keep him off the wagon. There have been many cold turkey, 'kick the drug habit; scenes on film, but Wilde's battle with the blow becomes a truly horrific violent nightmare, as excessive as his habit.
“Pete Tong” is such a satisfactory experience because over the course of the 90mins the tone and mood flows from bass-pumping rave action, to drug-induced cocaine paranoia to ridiculous high energy comedy and at the end the film reveals it’s gentle bittersweet heart which trumps all the debauchery before it.
"It's All Gone Pete Tong" screens tonight as part of the Canadian Cinema in Revue screening series at Toronto's Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles Ave). Writer/Director Michael Dowse be skyped in for a Q&A after the screening