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LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

June 9, 2008
RATING: 7.2/10
Rock photographer Anton Corbijn's feature debut, Control, tackles the legend of one of rock and roll's most revered icons, Ian Curtis. With a capable director (Corbijn, along with Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, is part of the Director's Label [LAS feature] group) and a captivating subject, the sky should be the limit for such a film. The results, however, are less than satisfying. While the film is beautifully photographed in black and white by Martin Ruhe and features an excellent soundtrack, mostly performed by lead actor Simon Riley and the cast, it lacks a certain dramatic flair and at times feels uninspired.



Corbijn has said in interviews that he never wanted to make a straight biopic, but, in essence, that's exactly what this film is. Some of the trappings of the genre are unavoidable since the story is based on real-life events. The always-engaging Samantha Morton plays Curtis' wife, Debbie, and does the best she can with the role. Here is yet another musician's spouse who must deal with her partner's infidelity and unreliability in the most stoic manner possible - see Walk the Line, Ray, et al. Eventually, she does decide to divorce him, and the film seems to insinuate that this may have been one of the factors that led to Curtis' untimely demise. But he seems destined for tragedy even from the first frames, which find a young Curtis in 1973, listening to David Bowie in his Macclesfield bedroom. Between stealing drugs from the elderly, attending the first Sex Pistols show, and harassing Factory Records' impresario Tony Wilson (played by Craig Parkinson), Curtis joins Joy Division and shoots to success in a relatively brief period of time. Riley is eerily similar to Curtis in his physical appearance and does an effective job with the material, limited as it sometimes is.



Again, the music must be noted here. The live performances were actually played and sung by the actors, and the sound is warm, rich, and about as close to the real thing as you can get. This is definitely much more effective than having the cast mime over playback. As Curtis begins his affair with Belgian journalist Annik Honore, played by Alexandra Maria Lara, his life begins to slowly and methodically spiral out of control. He suffers his first epileptic seizure on the way back from a London gig, and as his condition and personal life become more chaotic, he no longer wants to be a part of the band.



As anyone with a grasp on rock music's history knows, Curtis committed suicide on the eve of the band's first American tour. Corbijn does everything to display the situation, short of actually showing Curtis' death or his body, instead focusing on the emotional trauma he left behind. The whole process is artistically well rendered, but one is left wondering whether Control perhaps focuses too much on aesthetics and atmosphere at the expense of writing and story development. The rather fluffy handling considered, the film is saved from disaster by avoiding the sappy Hollywood clichés that a story like this could easily fall victim to, and is undeniably a must-see for the legions of Joy Division fans still devoted to the cause.

TRAILER: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nyVWxv6Q40.

SEE ALSO: www.controlthemovie.com
SEE ALSO: www.myspace.com/joydivision
SEE ALSO: www.corbijn.co.uk

--
Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other articles by Jonah Flicker.

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