Joy Division was a rather
legendary band in Europe. However, they never really broke through to
an American audience except for some pretentious music journalists (myself
included) who heard the band's posthumous single, the disturbing, bleak and
undeniably beautiful "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and started trumpeting the
band as one of the great lost chances for truly transcendent music.
They certainly did have a
dramatic story. Made up of five working class lads who worshipped
Bowie and Iggy, the group came of age in the murky urban wasteland of
Manchester. The band formed after the guys sat through a Sex Pistols
show together. Slowly but surely the band's bleak and introspective
anthems gained a following. On the eve of the band's first American
tour, lead singer and songwriter Ian Curtis hung himself. He was 23.
The band also had other
personnel. Of course the face of the band was the tortured genius, but
the rest of the band went on to form groundbreaking 80s dance-rock band New
Curtis was a brilliant
contradiction. He was at once overly sensitive and staggeringly
selfish, loving and dismissive, lusting after fame and scared to death of
Ian Curtis' tragic life and
premature death is not new to film - it made up a significant portion of
Michael Winterbottom's Tony Wilson bio-movie 24 Hr. Party People and
also was the subject of a wonderful recent documentary named after his band.
auteur Anton Corbijn -
who was one of the first photographers to capture the up-and-coming band -
and co-written by Curtis' widow Debbie (based on her book), Control
is a love song to a man who was too battered and depressed to write a
straight love song himself. Filmed in gorgeous, moody
black and white by rock-photographer-turned-
Curtis, who while he was
creating the band found out that he was an epileptic, was in a constant
search for control in his life. When inevitably it eluded him, he
would sink into alcohol-fueled depression. His lack of control was
made symbolic in his seizures, but it extended into all areas of his life.
He loved his wife (Samantha Morton) and daughter - and yet could not bring
himself to end a long affair with a Belgian rock journalist named Annik
Honore (Alexandra Maria Lara). The more popular his band became, the
less say he had in what happened to it. Suddenly he had to continue to
perform - at a point where it felt like he was rending himself with each
performance - for fear of letting down the band, the record company, the
manager, the audience.
There is genuine pathos and
suspense in watching the man's meteoric rise and spectacular fall - even
when we know full well how it all comes out.
One slight complaint in a
mostly wonderful film.
Perhaps there are
some personal grudges being aired here. I don't know for a fact that
there is this animosity between Debbie Curtis and the rest of her late
husband's band, but they do come off
looking a little jerky. In particular, bassist Peter Hook comes off looking like a
hooligan and future New Order leader Bernard Sumner seems like a complete wanker.
It may even be true, however, if you watch this film together with the
Joy Division documentary - which has full cooperation of the band
members and also interviews film characters like other woman Annik Honore
and flamboyant Factory Records owner Tony Wilson - then you will be able to
get a pretty all-encompassing view of a complicated, doomed man and his
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: June 20, 2008.