Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Human Traffic (1999)

A Vivid Slice of 90s UK Club Culture

Made in the vein of Acid House (1998) and Go (1999) Human Traffic garnered a fair load of both critical and negative reviews and media hype when it was released. Considered a Cult movie now, some say it is the only british film that truly captures the nineties, the clubbing era of the UK 90s in particular, others will object to it's easy attitude to drugs and its frank depiction of youth lifestyle.

Human Traffic is not set in Manchester or London, but rather unglamourous Cardiff representing Anytown, UK. Towards the end, we see shots of the city that look like the world's most boring postcards, partly explaining why the youth turns to the 48 hour thrills. Some of the strong Welsh accents are hard to understand, so fortunately the main characters are from elsewhere: London, Liverpool, Ireland for example. 

The plot isn't too complicated - the characters are introduced, then on Friday night they go to the pub, then a night club, followed by a party. They get high and come down. What is interesting is how they reveal their insecurities to each other. There's Jip, who works in a clothing store, and has a prostitute for a mother. He suffers from impotence. Koop works in a record shop, and is insanely jealous of his girlfriend Nina having contact with other men. His father is in a mental hospital. His girlfriend works in a fast food store with a lecherous manager. The other main female character Lulu, is a student with a history of attracting the worst boyfriends. Then there is Moff (Danny Dyer in perhaps his best performance) who supplies the others with MDMA. His father is a police superintendent. 

This was Justin Kerrigan - the Welsh filmmaker's first full-length movie. It appears he was influenced by artsie directors like Woody Allen, Hal Hartley, Martin Scorsese and Kevin Smith though there is also a Tarantino like scene where Star Wars is analysed in the kitchen. Despite all that it is still a quintessential British youth movie of the 90s and a must for any serious 90s UK cinema cinephile.

A special mention about the soundtrack! Even if you don't end up liking this film, your sure gonna love the soundtrack. There's loads of 90s music from a wide ensemble that includes Underworld, Primal Scream, Orbital, Fatboy Slim, CJ Bolland, Armand van Helden, Carl Cox, Felix Da Housecat, Ferry Corsten and many more.


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