Sunday, October 5, 2008

"Control" (director: Anton Corbijn)

This wonderful and faithful docu-drama (the first feature-length film by celebrated art photographer Corbijn, who knew the band) centers on the rise and fall of Macclesfield, England's influential post-punk band, Joy Division, and especially on its troubled lead singer Ian Curtis.
As a group that would forever change the face of music, if only posthumously, 'Control' presents a decidedly unglamorous view of Curtis' unstable condition (he had epilepsy), and the relationships he continued until his passing in 1980 (on the eve of the band's first American tour).
British actor Sam Riley absolutely nails the job of taking on Curtis' look, mannerisms, affectations, and even his voice. In fact, the cast (Riley, Joe Anderson as Hooky, James Anthony Pearson as Sumner, and Harry Treadaway as Morris) actually played the songs here, and it's stunning to hear/see them 'becoming' Joy Division onstage! The other actors here all are spot-on, as well, and this film has a believable, true-to-life air, yet remains respectful to all involved (warts and all - it's not a great or triumphant tale, by far). Curtis' estranged wife, Deborah (played superbly and sensitively by Samantha Morton) plays a major role here, as her stalwart faith in Curtis (and his fidelity) is put to all kinds of unnecessary tests. Based on Deborah Curtis' book, 'Touching From A Distance', it's as perfect/accurate of a biopic as will ever be made on Joy Division, and any fan of the music should see this one. As ever, Corbijn's stylish black & white visual style is balanced and arty (he's known for his classic photos/videos for bands like Depeche Mode, U2, Front 242, and others), but never obscure or pretentious. A memorable film, and some of the best music to come out of the punk explosion. (major release)

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