IT'S ALL GONE PETE TONG written and directed by Michael Dowse, with Paul Kaye, Beatriz Batarda, Kate Magowan and Mike Wilmot. 90 minutes. An Odeon Release. Opens Friday (June 10). For venues and times, see Movies, page 115. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Winnipeg - Mike Dowse is a big bear of a man with aggressive black spectacles and a skeptical look.
You meet Dowse and immediately want to know what music he listens to. I figure Pixies, maybe Ornette Coleman.
His debut film, Fubar, was a hilarious and weirdly touching send-up of small-town metalheads. Then he switched playlists entirely to take on club-culture vanities on Spain's notorious Ibiza island. The result, It's All Gone Pete Tong, took the prize for best Canadian film at last year's Toronto International Film Festival.
So which is Dowse anyway, headbanger or club bunny?
"I'm outside of it all," he says over morning coffee at Winnipeg's Film Exchange Festival. "Musically I'm more inclined to the headbanger style, but I'm not a headbanger.
"For me," he says, both films were sparked by "an ability to pick the humour out of each music scene. For DJs it's the opulence, the fact that they're such gods. For headbangers it's almost the opposite. They have nothing, but they have the same level of pride."
It's that ability to beatmix genres that got Dowse the gig in the first place. The film's British producers liked Fubar and offered him the script they were developing. (The title is Cockney rhyming slang for "It's all gone wrong.")
Dowse settled on a mock-doc style similar to Fubar's, but refined it for Pete Tong.
"With Fubar, we realized that you don't need a fake documentary crew to establish the humour," he says. "We spent a lot of time cutting the crew out of that film. You can just have the camera there, floating. As long as it's hand-held, you get the feeling. With Tong, we moved further in that direction."
The satire is now so seamless that some audiences are crushed to learn that the drug-casualty DJ at the heart of Pete Tong isn't real. Neither was Fubar. Sorry.
"With Fubar, we actually say off the top that it's fake. We found that if we didn't, people wouldn't laugh much in the first half-hour. But people think it's real anyway. The cloak of cinema falls over their brains and they accept everything that's shovelled up to them.
"I like playing with the based-on-a-true-story thing," Dowse admits. "It's a nod to Fargo, cuz that got me when I watched it. I thought, 'Yeah, it's a true story!'" He shakes his head. "Ah Christ, cinema."
With a British film shot in Spain under his belt, Dowse is clearly aiming beyond one-week runs at the Carlton. When I meet him in Winnipeg, he's on his way south for a big meeting. Somewhere along the festival circuit, Ben Stiller saw Pete Tong and liked it.
"Yeah, that happened in Aspen," he recalls. "His producer really liked it, too. I'm actually going to meet them in New York and talk about a couple of projects.
"They sent me a couple of scripts. They're all great and all different. They're not all Dodgeballs."
This is what happens to funny Canadians. They get plucked like sweet peaches.
"I might be doing a project with Ben," Dowse says, the skepticism slipping from his voice. "We'll see."
IT'S ALL GONE PETE TONG (Michael Dowse) Rating: NNN
It's All Gone Pete Tong is the mildly confusing title of the funniest movie ever made about DJs. Okay, it's a shallow pool, but Dowse (Fubar) nails the narcissism, the euphoria and the sheer bollocks of it all.
British comic Paul Kaye plays Frankie Wilde, a pill-popping, coke-snorting, toad-licking freak boy who's a god on Spain's Ibiza island until he begins to lose his hearing.
This is DJ kulcha's Spinal Tap, and early on it's as funny. Wilde's flip-flop collection, general incoherence and skank-to-skank relationship with his wife all get skewered brilliantly. If it loses the plot in the middle, it at least offers the necessary spectacle of sun-baked, drug-addled men-children spinning trances for kids half their age.