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Screen Adventure - by ShaunK

CONTROL (includes trailer)

June 14th 2010 13:38
Control film poster

Anton Corbjinís film Control, tells the biographical tale of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic front man of post punk band Joy Division. Joy Division were one of the original pioneering bands that formed the sounds of what would become alternative music. Along with other bands such as Killing Joke, Suicide and Echo & The Bunny Men, which formed at the very end of the first wave of the punk explosion, who would broaden the sonic spectrum inspired by the energy of punk music. Joy Division would inspire such bands as The Cure, Nine Inch Nails and Janes Addiction.

A fair amount of uncertainty has surrounded the circumstances of Curtisís final fate (he died at 23 bringing the band to an end - the remaining members would later go on to form new wave dance band, New Order), while some say Curtis's death was a suicide, I have read from other sources that the death was a result of the singer going into Status, a medical term used for when an epileptic has a series of ongoing seizures that have a fatal outcome. The film remains ambiguous regarding this, instead focusing on the life he lived - his highs and his all too often lows.

Sam Riley
new actor Sam Riley plays Ian Curtis

Control, which was made in 2006, sets itís scene in the mid seventies. Ian Curtis, just a high school boy, listening to Iggy Pop, with David Bowie and Lou Reed posters plastered around his bedroom wall. He dreams - and itís these dreams coming true that will plague him later on and weigh him down. His earlier teen years reveal a young lad in high school who rushed into a marriage and fatherhood too soon, never thinking it through or even being aware that he needed to. Controlís biggest theme centreís around how mistakes that we make can catch up to us many years later and one poor choice that we make can affect everything else in our life.

Sam Riley plays Ian Curtis and itís a fine performance from this new actor, with impressive nuance and passionate in all itís detail of portraying the real man. Joy Divisionís music always was morose, due to Curtisís druggy, yawned out vocals and Curtis is portrayed as a drip of a man, never seeming happy. Totally aloof, he hides his emotions and reasoning from everyone including Corbjinís camera, but the situations that unravels speak volumes about this man no matter how distant he may seem. His troubles hang over his head and we see them inspire the music of Joy Division, while at once worsening his epileptic condition. Curtis never seems like a bad guy or as someone who is dislikeable, but just complicated and distressed by the skin that heís stuck in.

The real JOY DIVISION playing one of their classic tracks live

Control is shot in black and white and manages to capture an outsiderís view of Manchester during the late 70ís and early eighties. The directly carved out, stark images have the feel of a post card in time, which give a seemingly definitive account of how the band formed, rose and would unravel with Ian Curtisí dying at the age of 23. Control is always engaging and creates a mood of restrained nostalgia and artistic precision, you feel like you are paying your ultimate respects in this extremely well researched and wonderfully fleshed out account of the people, the music and the times. The photography gives the film a feeling of objectivity, while creeping in closer and closer to itís aloof main character. I can only describe the filmís tone as photographic, where we feel like weíve received the ultimate collection of actual moments and now have to speculate how the pieces could possibly be put together.

Control is a really resonant experience and a nearly flawless film. You donít have to be a fan of Joy Division to want to watch this film but it helps if youíre a fan of the English or post punk music scene. The pacing of the film at first may seem off, it lingers on smaller moments and jumps right over more important ones, but ultimately all comes together by the time this portrait of Curtis is completely fleshed out and revealed. Itís thoroughly enjoyable seeing the music of the times being recreated with such love and care. Itís clear that all of the people involved in the making of this film really have invested their whole lives into this music and this is now the outcome of that passion. Seeing actor Craig Parkinson play Tony Wilson, the head of Factory Records is thoroughly entertaining, Wilson was such a notorious figure in the music scene at the time and Steve Coogan already did a great job of playing him in the film 24 Hour Party People, he still remains a thoroughly fascinating character to be seen portrayed by any capable and imaginative actor.

The material in Control all comes from the book ĎTouching from a distanceí written by Debbie Curtis, the widow of Ian Curtis, who here is played by Samantha Morton (Minority Report, Sweet and Lowdown, Synecdoche New York). Morton is just as strong as Riley here and she seems to be the heart of the entire film, her nurturing, warm portrayal is an interesting juxtaposition to Sam Rileyís cold, troubled and distant portrayal of Curtis.

The actors who play the band members manage to pull out recreated numbers themselves, successfully emulating the spirit of the original band. Fans of Joy Division have really been given a gift with this film. Control won the award at Cannes Film Festival for best first feature and it is really quite exceptional, director Anton Corbjinís previous experience has been in high profile music videos, but he proves here, that he is an exciting new film maker with possibly some great things ahead of him and is someone worth keeping your eye on. His second film is set to be released late 2010, itís called The American and stars George Clooney.


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6 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by JohnDoe

June 14th 2010 16:54
Mighty fine review Shaun,

I went into this one expecting a traditional biopic that elevated the subject to mythical levels. Was pleasantly surprised at how human everyone came across. Agreed, a large part of the attraction was how well the film captured the era and essence of its subject.

Comment by ShaunK

June 14th 2010 21:49
Thank you sir - might fine compliment

The magic of this film was it, in some mysterious way, made me actually feel like I as there at the time.

I love the shot in the film where you see all those wigged out teens watching the Sex Pistols, playing 'Submission', only hearing the interpretation but never actually seeing it, only seeing the audiences reaction.

Comment by David O'Connell

June 15th 2010 13:38
Music biopics aren't really my kind of thing usually but by the sounds of it I could possibly get something out of this even without any knowledge of the band's music. The Metallica film was the last one I really enjoyed (and I had no connection to their music either).

Comment by ShaunK

June 15th 2010 14:37
Hi David, thanks for reading, I've never been a fan of Joy Division but I am a fan of that whole scene of music. Music in general is my passion, along with cinema.

You might want to read up a little about the band first before watching the film just to put everything into context, but once you are watching it you will get an impressive film and real life account of a man who would become almost as influential as his own musical heroes, by complete accident, and above all, the tale of a very complicated and troubled artist.

Comment by Matt Shea

June 16th 2010 06:19
Great review Shaun. I've never seen this and I think I was somewhat put off by a few people touting the 2007 doco about Joy Division (simply titled Joy Division) as being a much more accurate portrayal of the band and the associated milieu.

It wouldn't usually bother me - it's comparing a doco with a narrative film after all - but I'm a big fan of the band and the documentary is absolutely first class - something I can't really recommend highly enough.

Having said all that, I need to check this out. Interesting info about Corbijn directing The American - it took him so long to graduate from music vids and photography.

Comment by ShaunK

June 16th 2010 06:42
Hey Matt - thanks - I will check out the doco, they're an important band for the scene of music they were a part of. My only gripe with control was it shows the band members insulting the Buzzcocks several times and I love the Buzzcocks

Tell me, in the doco do they discuss whether his death was at all from him going into Status, as that is what I always heard yet control is somewhat overly ambigiuous about it, leaning more towards the idea that I could have also been a suicide.

corbijn is a really impressive new film maker and I cant wait for the american

thanks for reading

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