Skip to main content

labour of love

movie review :: control

the idea of making a film about joy division strikes me as odd. the band's appeal lies in their unfathomable mystery, some magic that others could feel, even if they couldn't explain it. the sheer diversity of joy division fans, and i count myself as one, is testimony that there is some validity to that. outside of the post-glam, post-punk context of the band, there is something inexplicable about them.

thankfully, director anton corbin- an avid joy division fan and chronicler himself- is aware of this. every scene in his biopic of joy division's lead singer ian curtis (and the film is about curtis, not the band as a unit) is suffused with the same atmosphere and aesthetic as the band's albums and videos- restrained, melancholy, emotional.

curtis' story is almost pedestrian on the one hand: far from dreaming of rock stardom, he was an exceptionally average (oxymoron alert!) teenager who listened to music (bowie, the stooges, etc.), wrote poetry, smoked, did some drugs and, eventually, married his high school sweetheart and started a government job. his ascent to icon status seemed unexpected, and, for all concerned, perplexing.

the title of the film is an important "tell" on its perspective. even as he met with success in the various areas of his life, control seems to be the one thing that ian curtis was never able to feel. he at first went through the expected motions of a young man in his social situation and then became driven by the band and the lifestyle that went along with it, while never feeling comfortable in either. curtis had little control over his job, his fame, his money, his emotions and, eventually, even his own body, which fell prey to increasingly disturbing epileptic seizures. viewed in that light, his eventual suicide seems not only sad, but inevitable.

as a result, the film is unrepentant in its bleakness, but wrapped in a beautiful soundtrack. which is not a bad description of joy division. corbin's most deft move as a director- and this is saying something, because he shows a phenomenal attention to detail throughout- is that he relies on joy division's music to form a sort of ancillary script. rather than trying to explain the appeal of the band or the reactions to their music, he gives plenty of time for the music to be heard. this is risky- it undoubtedly alienates people who aren't joy division fans- but it is really the only way to communicate what was so special about them without falling into the trap of over-explaining.

the film does at times become a little heavy-handed (it would have been stronger without the "hypnotism" scene intended to drive home points that were already well made), but overall maintains a sort of dignity that does the band and ian curtis proud.

Comments

Richo said…
I'm STILL waiting for the opportunity to see this. Hasn't, as far as I'm aware, been screened at any of the cinemas here in Krakow. Wonder if it has played at Warsaw, though...?!

as long as you're here, why not read more?

fun-raising

no, i am not dead, nor have i been lying incapacitated in a ditch somewhere. i've mostly been preparing for our imminent, epic move, which is actually not so terribly epic, because we found a place quite close to where we are now. in addition, i've been the beneficiary of an inordinately large amount of paying work, which does, sadly, take precedence over blogging, even though you know i'd always rather be with you.

indeed, with moving expenses and medical expenses looming on the horizon, more than can be accounted for even with the deepest cuts in the lipstick budget, dom and i recently did something that we've not done before: we asked for help. last week, we launched a fundraising campaign on go fund me. it can be difficult to admit that you need a helping hand, but what's been overwhelming for both of us is how quick to respond so many people we know have been once we asked. it's also shocking to see how quickly things added up.

most of all, though, the ex…

losers?

just a short time ago, i waxed prosaic about trump supporters who felt betrayed by their candidate pursuing in office the exact things that he said he would. short version: i have no sympathy.

today is a bit different. in the wake of america's bombing of a syrian air strip, in response to a chemical weapons attack by the syrian government, my facebook and twitter feeds were peppered with plaintive shades of "we believed you". these are the people who heard trump say that he wanted the united states to step back and focus on defending its own. indeed, trump did say such things, over and over; america cannot be the policeman of the world. even arch-liberal cynics like me had to admit that this was a refreshing argument to hear from someone outside the paul family, and, could easily have been turned into trump's greatest argument against hillary clinton. [he chose to go another way, which also worked.]

trump also said, repeatedly, that america needed to invest heavily …

long division

after the united states election last year, there were the usual calls for the country to unite behind the new president. that never happens anymore, because, since george w. bush scored a victory in 2004, having launched the country into a war in iraq for no reason, the people on the losing side of a presidential election have been pretty bloody angry about it. democrats hated bush 43. republicans really hated obama. democrats really hate trump.

it didn't help that trump didn't make the typical conciliatory gestures like including a couple of members of the opposite party in his cabinet, or encouraging his party to proceed slowly with contentious legislation. barack obama arguably wasted at least two and as many as six years of his tenure as president trying to play peacemaker before he felt sufficiently safe to just say "screw you guys" and start governing around the ridiculous congress he was forced to deal with. not-giving-a-shit obama was the best president in …