The 10 best-ever movies about club culture
Dance music sits at an interesting apex of popular culture – it’s big business, yet much-maligned and misunderstood by the mainstream media. Perhaps that’s why we’re yet to see a tent-pole film franchise built on the foundations of so-hot-right-now dance music (despite attempts like the new thriller Enter the Dangerous Mind (EDM), the upcoming Zac Efron vehicle We Are Your Friends and the deliriously low-rent DJ Girl).
But while we’re yet to see a Citizen Kane or Lawrence of Arabia for the dance music scene, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some quality celebrations of club culture committed to celluloid. With the 2015 Academy Awards taking place this weekend, we thought we’d get in early and put forward our ten nominations for the ten Best Motion Pictures about Club Culture.
#10 “Party Monster” (2003)
The irony of this gritty film documenting the so-called ‘Club Kids’ of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s NYC scene is that very little screen time is dedicated to clubbing itself. Instead, Macaulay Culkin (as tragic club promoter Michael Alig) and Seth Green (as flamboyant sidekick James St James – who in real life penned the memoir Disco Bloodbath on which Party Monster is based) divide their time between looking “fabulous” and consuming an intimidating cocktail of whatever chemicals were in vogue at the time.
It’s not giving too much away to say that not everyone gets through to the end in one piece, but directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato present the events through a non-judgemental eye. When they do hit the clubs they’re not afraid to get all anachronistic by littering the action with 2003-era electro bombs, and any film that reminds you how much of a tune Vitalic’s La Rock 01 is deserves its place in this illustrious company.
#9 “One Perfect Day” (2004)
One Perfect Day scrapes its way into this list for two reasons: it’s Australian, and it tackles the impossible task of trying to capture those moments of inspiration when an idea becomes a dancefloor bomb (though wisely skips over the hours-upon-hours of EQing kick-drum loops). The film itself is a mash-up of way too many plotlines and ideas, an A-list cast (Dan Spielman, Leeanna Wallsman, Abbie Cornish as a schoolgirl raver) doing their best in a story about a classical composer turning to dance music who comes up against a drug-dealing, club-owning record producer doing his best impersonation of a Bond supervillain.
Director Paul Currie’s love for rave culture is clear, though. He wisely surrounded himself with key players in the Melbourne scene – Josh “Addicted To Bass” Abrahams (score), Richie “Stereosonic” McNeill (music supervisor) and Phil Ransom (DJ hand double). And the film’s two climactic party scenes are stunning, including a doof staged by Green Ant, Psy-Harmonics and more at Cheltenham Salt Mines.
#8 “Groove” (2000)
Something of a poor transatlantic cousin to British film Human Traffic, which we’ll talk about a little later, Groove is a low-budget take on one night in San Francisco’s turn-of-the-century warehouse rave scene. The plot follows a pair of brothers who reunite at the titular rave – one an aspiring novelist reduced to writing instruction manuals instead of fulfilling his dream, the other a hardcore raver who proposes to his girlfriend on the d-floor but is harbouring a Very Big Secret.
This one enters the club film Hall of Fame off the back of its sterling cameo from John Digweed, who (SPOILER ALERT) turns up at the end to save the rave (as Diggers always does) with the Bedrock classic Heaven Scent, then disappears off into the night, presumably to save another rave – but not before bequeathing his fresh piece of Bedrock wax on the film’s aspiring DJ first. Oh, and fun fact: one of the stars’ names is Ari Gold. Bet Entourage fans love him.