Saturday, November 03, 2007

directed by Anton Corbijn
limited U.S release October 2007.
seen at Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington.

How Joy Division was able to function as a band at all is a miracle. Filmed in an appropriate black and white by ultra-known photographer/music video director Anton Corbijn, Control tells the ill-fated story of short-lived, troubled vocalist Ian Curtis. Luckily, Corbijn had been familiar with the band since they existed. In lesser hands, Control wouldn't have given the story a respectable treatment, for Joy Division--who was just about to go on a brief U.S tour before Curtis' death--made music that many hold close to the heart. If the focus for you is the band and its music more than Curtis himself, you may feel slighted. In fact, the post-punk band and its music is almost incidental and isn't looked at in a bigger picture to show the significance and innovation at the time, nor do we see the band discussing their songwriting or how the first song came together. Some of that is intuitive, and putting the music into perspective was only realized the following 25 years after Joy Division's demise. Control is an examination of Curtis, beginning in 1973 when we see him listening to David Bowie, smoking cigarettes and meeting his future wife (whose memoirs provides much of the details of the film). Getting married is usually a turning point in an artist's career later in life--they settle down and lose the angst. Like Nirvana, this was not the case. We can speculate about what "might have been" had Curtis not took his life so early, but it's evident from what we know about his existence that his troubles resulted in brilliant music. The songs in Control--by the actual actors as well as Joy Division themselves (plus the Killers covering a song during the end credits..um why?)--are dispersed appropriately, with some coinciding with the tragic plot (the live versions are abridged..awkward!). In a different time and place with different people, the story would have unfolded differently--Curtis' epilepsy, for example, could have been under better care in 2007 by doctors, his bandmates, manager, wife and mistress. Whether it's fate or freewill, a piece of music history is already written. -Kenyon

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