I saw Control with Morten. It's the movie about Joy Division and more specifically Ian Curtis. It's funny because the first I heard of it was critics tripping over themselves to point out that they liked it though they'd never heard of the band. The point is always pretty much, "I'm a square. I'd never heard of these guys but I liked the movie, although for a rock band, they sure weren't that much fun." I wonder what those critics were listening to back then. To me, Joy Division is one of those bands that, if you have taste, you should've at least heard during their existence if you were teenage or older. I mean, how separate are the worlds of music and movies that you'd have us believe you've got great taste and an ear to the underground if you still haven't heard of Joy Division? What bigger independent bands were there in the late '70s? And didn't you review 24 Hour Party People not five years ago?
Back to the 24 Hour Party People then. When that came out I saw a lot of dour Raincoats leaving the theater expressing their wish that whole film had been about Ian Curtis and not those awful acid house Blue Tuesdays or whatever was going on after Ian Curtis' death, at which point their lot zoned out 'til the credits. Pity them. And I thought of how awful that would be -- a film about Joy Division. Biopics are so suspect. Made For Cable movies that sit in the wings like vultures to be released in theaters only in the event of the subject's death because what is an awful film will likely reap the awful rewards at the Oscars.
Control is directed by Anton Corbijn, which I didn't know till the end. Whatever you think of the guy, and I love his videos, you've got to admit that his images always have to easy to appreciate visuals. I mean, Bryan Adams got him to direct "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman," after all. He's f---ing Dutch, for Christ's sake.
Strongo disliked that it was in black and white. Morten pointed out that the world of Joy Division is black and white. It's kind of like how you're supposed to always film World War II in black & white or viewers get confused. The movie is visually stark, grey and remote. It always looks chilly and breezy year round. As far as plot, Corbijn sticks to the facts, which fans will recognize from the myth that has been passed down. He doesn't attempt to color in many of the bits on one knows about. For a music video director, I'm surprised at how artful, confident and unsullied by commercial demands it is.
Let's look at other music video makers who become movie directors. Remember Tarsem Singh's debut after promising videos? The Cell. For every David Fincher, Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry, there is an example of the opposite. Hype Williams made Belly, which we sell the ish out of, but I won't watch because it has Method Man and worse, Nas and who knows -- James Woods. Joseph Kahnn made Torque, which I still think needs to be on a Crotch Rockets double feature with Biker Boyz, filed in our otherwise perfect Biker Movies section in the Cult department of Amoeba.
For those that know a little about the characters of the late '70s Manchester scene there's a lot of fun to be had. Sadly, Martin Hannett is barely there. Craig Parkinson as Tony Wilson seems to have absorbed Steve Coogan. Toby Kebbell plays Rob Gretton as a self-promoting, slightly salesman-like guy who is nonetheless honest, loyal and charming. Sam Riley plays Ian Curtis as sweet, sensitive, selfish, self-absorbed, and lovable despite his weak will. Samantha Morton is Deborah Curtis (who, to me, has always been vilified somewhat as cashing in on Ian's death by writing a not always flattering account of being cheated on by her husband and the father to her children) and is pretty great. It seems like suffering wives of adulterous protagonists are always made out to be annoyances, not characters we should feel bad for. They are shrill, they're always crying and looking unsexy, their teeth are yellow, they wear housecoats too much and they just don't understand their adulterous husbands who really have no choice but to cheat, e.g. Brokeback Mountain. It's the fault of the crazy, messed up world they're in.
Much has been made of the film's stately, measured pace. That is to say, there isn't a lot of extraneous camera work or other bullshit. A-men. I think if you like either Last Days or Zodiac you'll find a lot to enjoy.