Restless and kaleidoscopic despite its sometimes drab digital-video palette, this supremely self-aware docu-comedy canonizes two decades worth of Manchester bands even as it deconstructs the very process of rock 'n roll mythmaking. Steve Coogan is fantastic as Tony Wilson, who was at once pompous and populist, visionary and short-sighted. Through frequent asides in the direction of the audience, smirky voiceovers and likable self-mockery, Coogan personifies the contradictions that fuelled Wilson's remarkably diverse string of musical discoveries. Frank Cottrell Boyce's script risks alienating audience members unfamiliar with the large cast of rock-star characters; in America, where few of these bands ever escaped cult status, all of the grand pop-cultural pronouncements may provoke more head-scratching than head-nodding. But even at its most maddeningly musicological, the film portrays big emotions, big laughs and universal human frailties. The fine supporting cast helps ground Coogan's larger-than-life performance, from Shirley Henderson's swept-aside wife to Sean Harris and Danny Cunningham's voraciously self-destructive creative types. In the end, jack-of-all-trades director Michael Winterbottom nails the particular combination of a time, a place and a sound that can crystallize in front of a global audience, if only for a little while.