Monday, August 3, 2009

Losing Control

On a cloudy, hung over Sunday I decided to delve deep within my inner morose world and viewed the 2007 Anton Corbijn film Control, the story of the rise of post-punk icons Joy Division. Admittedly, I am not a seasoned veteran in the world of Joy Division, but have long been a fan of their predecessors and of course the bands that followed directly and indirectly with their sound and style.

The film itself lives up to the British press praise. However, it does make one feel void and eerily removed. The film grows an anxiety with its viewers that often make relaxing and enjoying it difficult. Perhaps the genius is that Joy Division's music delivers the same. Shot entirely in black and white, the film is as much about the cinematography as the acting. If anything, ironically, it’s the storytelling that lacks in this. There are several shots that I paused and watched again, just brilliant scenes. The acting is superb as well, all new to me, but as is rare in rock films, undoubtedly believable at all times. Where I find myself getting lost was in the focus of lead singer/songwriter Ian Curtis and his troubled marriage.

Ultimately his failure to come to terms with a marriage he could never emotionally or physically commit to coupled with growing anxiety about musical expectations and playing live added with his boozing and pill popping to cope with his frantic fits of epilepsy, lead to his self inflicted death at the young age of 23. Sadly, where many artists die in their prime and rob us of a continued glory, Curtis passed well before we saw the height of what he was capable of becoming.

The film tracks the early days of Curtis spinning albums from Bowie and the essential meeting outside of a Sex Pistols show where he commits to becoming the front man to a band with no prior musical experience beyond his ability to write and love of music (maybe there's hope for me yet!). Soon Joy Division would force their way into the scene dominated by the punk movement and the likes of the Buzzcocks, a constantly referenced rival throughout the film.

Joy Division would pummel their way throughout England, filling the airwaves with dark, stammering tunes of angst, confusion and utter frustration. The film bounces from Curtis's affair, his mental and medical troubles, his solitude and creativity extremely well, by the end, presenting them as a complication much as one entity.

On the eve of departure for their first stint of US shows, Curtis would hang himself in his own kitchen, found by his wife whom he had disgraced and abused for years. As you can well see, Joy Division is not just a clever name for this band.

Well worth the watch for fans of rock docs as well as fans of black and white film.


1 comment:

Benjamin said...

I just watched this the other day as well.Rather enjoyable. Your critisicms, however, are on point Mr. Pue. On point.