Various Artists

Shadowplayers: Factory Records & Manchester Post-Punk 1978-81 [Video]

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One of the most enjoyable results of the DVD age, especially when combined with the ease of movie creation via affordable cameras and software, has been the explosion of detailed documentaries covering any number of musical figures and subcultures. James Nice, having done a yeoman's job via LTM in ensuring the legacy of the Factory label beyond the highest profile bands continues to survive, produced his own entry to this field with Shadowplayers, a crisp, wide-ranging, two-hour effort consisting of interviews with many figures from the early days of the legendary Manchester company. More than once the fictional film about Factory, 24 Hour Power People, is mentioned by the interviewees and it's no surprise that many of the participants see Shadowplayers as a chance to set the record straight, or at least to clear up some of the odder corners of the story, an understandable approach. By default, not everyone was able to be interviewed -- most obviously Ian Curtis, Martin Hannett and Rob Gretton, though each are remembered via numerous reminiscences. Meanwhile, Peter Hook's participation is crucial, but it would be fascinating as well to hear from his Joy Division bandmates Bernard Sumner or Stephen Morris, not to mention Factory boss Tony Wilson's original partner Alan Erasmus. These, however, are quibbles compared to the rich detail offered from many different voices, from Wilson and Hook and other more well-known names such as label designer Peter Saville and the Durutti Column's Vini Reilly to other Factory stalwarts and associated figures such as Richard Boon, Wilson's ex-wife Lindsay Reade, Ann Quigley of Swamp Children, Alan Hempsall of Crispy Ambulance, Annik Honore of Factory Benelux, and many others, besides. The result places Factory more fully in context as an experiment not guaranteed of success yet finding it, from Saville's innovative designs to offshoot efforts in Europe and America. Nice wisely lets everyone tell their own stories -- he is only briefly heard once or twice off-camera the entire time -- while editor David Meachen keeps the pace quick and technically smooth throughout. The scene stealers in the end prove to be Vincent and Larry Cassidy of Section 25, who make a sharp-edged double team as they recall various incidents with understated, perfectly timed humor.