sat 13/07/2024

Blu-ray: I Am Weekender | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: I Am Weekender

Blu-ray: I Am Weekender

New doc on Flowered Up's rave epic Weekender, plus its sensual, sensitive, scene-defining video

Loved up: Lee Whitlock and Anna Haigh dance awayBFI

Pinned eyes stare from a frozen husk of a face as a clubber comes down, cradled high over London on a window-cleaner’s perch. Director WIZ’s 18-minute video for Flowered Up’s rave epic “Weekender” (1992) takes you on the E’d up odyssey of Little Joe (Lee Whitlock), from skinning up at work through clubland peaks to chilly aftermath.

Weekender Blu-ray coverThis BFI release pairs this perfect marriage of music, film and moment’s 2K remaster with Chloé Raunet’s new documentary I Am Weekender. Here Jeremy Deller dubs Weekender “the first meditation on rave culture”, Lynne Ramsay, who similarly caught clubbing’s hazy delirium in Morvern Callar, admires the film’s “5am” vibe, Irvine Welsh states that “without Weekender, there would have been no Trainspotting”, and Róisín Murphy, Heavenly Records’ Jeff Barrett, “Weekender” producer Clive Langer and the film’s stars Whitlock and Anna Haigh ponder the record and film’s history and legacy.

Flowered Up were written off as runts of the Madchester litter, London chancers arriving late on a Northern scene, whose first album, A Life with Brian (1991), was a compromised flop. “Weekender” was then sculpted from a 40-minute jam, and its brutish guitars, soaring gospel choruses and expansive rave soundscapes matched the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and Primal Scream’s Screamadelica in refreshing rock for a new sensory and social reality. Liam Maher’s vocal and brother Joe’s guitar give abrasive edge to the song’s critique of the loved-up scene’s part-timers, Liam sneering: “Don’t you hate what you are?/I’ll give it, give it to you!”

Director, cast and crew came out of that scene, and Weekender is a thrilling, soiled snapshot of a new way of life. Updating Sixties Mods’ pilled-up Soho sojourns, as samples of Quadrophenia’s Jimmy make clear, WIZ depicts the song with forensic sensual detail, low-budget imaginative leaps and a rough idealism similar but not identical to the band’s. His Blu-ray commentary muses on Orpheus and Aboriginal dream-time, with Little Joe more “seeker” than rebel, in a film wanting “transcendence, not oblivion”.Lee Whitlock in WeekenderLiam Maher refused to star, instead cameoing as a homeless beggar, and both brothers later died of heroin overdoses, putting a pall of grim oblivion over Flowered Up’s story. The film which stands as their monument instead visualises the warm, accelerated feeling of an Ecstasy high amid clubbing’s communal embrace – the first shock of immersion, sniffing amyls like sacrament, then the dancefloor’s red smoke and sway. Regression from careworn young lives back to innocence is shown by turning the dancers into young children. Es’ widely noted dissolving of male hooligan aggro is meanwhile movingly suggested by Whitlock’s vulnerable physicality. He curls naked in a bath, and when he connects with Anna Haigh on the dancefloor, maybe hallucinated sex focuses on his exposed body and her supportive, relieving touch, skin on skin. Paranoid bathroom comedowns and the early morning street’s ice-water shock complete the cycle.

Weekender is an imaginative submersion into a lost world, a really eternal declaration of sometimes desperate, defiant youthful kicks. Other Flowered Up videos, WIZ shorts and essays complete the picture.

The film visualises the warm, accelerated feeling of an Ecstasy high amid clubbing’s communal embrace


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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