Review: Creation Stories

I’m too lazy to check, but I’m pretty sure there’s already been at least one documentary made about Creation Records, the incongruously successful indie label that catapulted some of the biggest British acts of the 80s and 90s to world fame. Creation Stories is more of a comic biopic of founder Alan McGee, though it’s structured as a doc in that it tries to stuff everything of consequence regarding the history of Creation into its frantic 100 minutes. I admit that I learned some interesting things, mainly about how My Bloody Valentine essentially destroyed the label financially before Oasis gave it a second wind, but generally the live-fast-and-die credo that underpins most rock music stories is milked for more than it’s worth, and by the time McGee is a walking, talking cliche of show biz excess, holding court beside a Beverly Hills swimming pool, of all places, you’re tired of the whole thing. 

Part of the problem is that the filmmakers, which include Irvine Welsh as script contributor and Danny Boyle as producer, cruise on their love of this era and thus neglect to find anything in McGee’s tale that’s distinctive for those of us who didn’t grow up in it. It’s the classic story of a poor lad who’s obsessed with music but harbors no innate creative talent of his own (though he did front a semi-successful band for a time), channeling his energy into the promotion of people he instinctively recognizes as great. In McGee’s case his impulses were more correct than those of others of his ilk. As played by two actors (Leo Flanagan, Ewen Bremner), McGee is all manic idiosyncrasy and no discernible personality, so when the drugs and booze quickly take over the viewer isn’t sure what’s actually fueling his success. It all seems so accidental, and when the initial triumph managing the Television Personalities leads to the revolutionary discovery of the Jesus and Mary Chain, you don’t get any sense of McGee using his wits to make the cognitive leap. The movie makes it seem as if he was just in the right place at the right time, which could have made for something funny and ironic, but it’s mostly just confusing.

By the time McGee discovers Oasis (played by bad actors) in the basement of a club during a talent showcase, the trite attempts to cultivate nostalgia have curdled over into cynical boredom. Even the end game, where the label’s disastrous financial follies finally defeat McGee, who then marshals his marketing proclivities in the service of politics, lacks the dramatic intrigue that should bring the story full circle. I have no doubt much of this is true, but it all plays as farce, and not very funny farce at that. 

Now playing in Tokyo at Shinjuku Cinema Qualite (03-3352-5645), Shibuya Cine Quinto (03-3477-5905).

Creation Stories home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2020 Creation Stories Ltd.

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