Monday, February 04, 2008

Control

Anton Corbijn | 2007 | 121 min | UK

Director Anton Corbijn is partially responsible for creating the iconography of Joy Division, so it is perhaps fitting that he helms Control, the story of singer Ian Curtis. The film is shot in muted black and white, recalling the most familiar images of Joy Division out there, and Corbijn frames many of the shots as portraiture. The problem with the film is that's as penetrating and insightful as it ever gets.

The film covers a very short period of a very short life. We are given a couple brief looks at Ian as a schoolboy and his initial courtship with wife Debbie, but the vast majority of the film is reserved from the time he joins Warsaw (soon to be Joy Division). That makes for a very thin story. Though we get the greatest hits of his physical and emotional illness and estrangement from his wife, we get little information as to what motivates any of it. His family and background are treated as the most minor concerns. Or maybe all we need to know is that those David Bowie records were the problem?

The cast is capable, but not outstanding. Sam Riley does a very good job affecting the jittery stage movements and sullen faces of Curtis, and Samantha Morton does a wonderful job as Debbie. She is too wonderful, in fact. Morton is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. Almost inevitably Control will be compared to 2002's 24 Hour Party People (in which Riley played the role of Mark E. Smith), and Control just does not cut it. Nowhere is this more evident than in the duel portrayals of Tony Wilson. Craig Parkinson is absolutely no match for 24 Hour's Steve Coogan.

Obviously Curtis lead an interesting life and perhaps there is still a story in there worth telling, but Corbijn distills everything down to Joy Division fandom, and there is not enough in that brief period to make for much of a feature. There are some good moments, and it looks beautiful, but Control is not a film I can recommend. Fans of Joy Division will appreciate it more than others, but don't expect much more than a glorified music video.

8 comments:

Hi, I'm Corrina said...

It is not Ian Curtis' fault. None of it!

aaron said...

hi, are you my hippie roommate who thinks Great Artists fall outside the realm of any judgment? because if you are, put on some pants.

Hi, I'm Corrina said...

pants chafe.

robes 4 lyfe.

Anonymous said...

um, that was never my point at all. i don't even fucking like joy division. i suggested that maybe the way he behaved was the result of his failing mental health and not poor decision making.

also : my robe is amazing.

aaron said...

well, MY point was that you were too forgiving of the guy because he was an artist. you were willing to overlooked the fact that, in addition to having mental health issues, he was also completely selfish in disregarding his health + responsibilities, despite the fact that he had a young family. the drugs + booze + indulgent environments didnt help his depression any.

and the ladies thought your robe was creepy, dude.

Anonymous said...

i don't think i was being "forgiving" and i'm certainly not apologizing for him. i just think people who are mentally ill can't really be expected to make rational decisions. sometimes they're just not physically capable of it. literally everyone i know who has to take medication for manic depression and other similar afflictions has had more than one episode where they managed to convince themselves that they didn't "need" their medication. no one wants to believe that their brain doesn't always work properly.

by the way, i have your cash.

ps. that's the last time i serve your ungrateful guests coffee.

Anonymous said...

i meant "or" other similar afflictions...

aaron said...

look, we are just going to have to agree to filthy bathrobe on this. oops, i mean: agree to disagree.