The music mockumentary is a difficult form due to some outstanding films that established the genre. It’s All Gone Pete Tong starts off as an over-the-top mockumentary about a DJ that has many funny bits in the opening act, but they start to seem a bit routine. But then the film begins to shift tone as our hero, Frankie Wilde, begins to lose his hearing. The performance by Paul Kaye is amazing and he manages to go from slapstick to serious as the film progresses. His manager, played by Mike Wilmot as a sleazy self-absorbed show business-type perpetually on the verge of a heart attack serves as Frankie’s connection to the world. Things start to fall apart for Frankie and his manager can’t make any more excuses as the world goes silent for the DJ.
Up to this point I was a bit confused by the shift in tone, but one scene with the appearance of Beatriz Batarda as a lip-reading teacher, completely won me over. The film is visually and sonically gorgeous and the critical scene where Frankie learns to lip read is an amazing use of sound and visuals. The lighter tone of the earlier scenes didn’t prepare me for that scene and it hit me just right and all my doubts about the film were erased. For the first time I have more of an appreciation and understanding of how it is possible to read lips. With the shift in tone in that scene the film pretty much becomes a drama that worked very well for me.
Shot and mixed in a bold and aggressive style, it’s sophisticated and polished and I was even more surprised when I found out it was shot on HD. Structurally and in technique I loved the film. It begins as a mockumentary, then some of the over-the-top elements begin to drop out as it looks and feels more like verité, and finally it moves into more traditional drama. It’s an unconventional structure and that’s what threw me off, but I’m very glad that I stuck with it.