New Order’s Bizarre Short Film “Play At Home”

New Order’s Play at Home is a short film made by New Order in 1984 featuring interviews with Tony Wilson, Martin Hannett, Rob Gretton, Alan Erasmus, Peter Saville, Bruce Mitchell, Liz Naylor, Larry Cassidy, Richard Boon, Derrick Johnson, Mike Pickering, Pete Shelley, Michael Schamberg, Cath Carroll, Andy Connell, Gonnie Rietveld and many others.

Playing like a real-life version of 24 Hour Party People (and doubtless an influence on Michael Winterbottom’s fictionalised 2002 account of Factory Records’ rise-and-fall), New Order Play At Home begins in the manner it intends to continue, with an American voice-over announcing “Factory Records! A partnership, a business, a joke!”

Interviewed naked in his bath by New Order’s Gilian Gilbert, Factory boss Tony Wilson comes across (doubtless intentionally) as wise, naive, arrogant, creepy, misguided and brilliant. He is both genius and fool, and the portrait that emerges of Factory Records is of a dream in chaos, one of the most depressingly honest accounts of a divisive record company ever put to film.

Martin Hannett broods with a pistol in a shuttered library of papers and filth, Liz Naylor sits in a gym with Cath Carroll spitting out caustic put-downs of Wilson and his delusions, Rob Gretton interviews himself (“Good question, Rob”), Alan Erasmus rides pillion on Peter Hook’s motorbike (“Do you think you’ve taken a bit of a back seat lately, Alan?”) and no-one has a good word to say about anyone, let alone Wilson.

Perhaps the most startling sequence, however, is the one in which Wilson is grilled in the Haçienda’s Gay Traitor bar by various members of such Factory bands as Durutti Column, A Certain Ratio and Section 25. They want to see the accounts. They want to know where the money is. They want to know why they can never find Wilson when they need him. They want to get paid.