Oct 27, 2007


The movie is gorgeously shot in black and white, with a keen eye on composition, since Anton Corbijn, the director, is a famous still photographer, who has mainly photographed rock bands like U2. His eye for the detail of the unglamorous part of rock bands is refreshing. Control is an engrossing movie, with a haunting central performance by the very talented Sam Riley, strongly supported by an excellent cast that includes the formidable Samantha Morton and Alexandra Maria Lara, last seen as Hitler's secretary in Downfall, and most memorably, the very funny Toby Kebbell, who plays the band's manager.
Ian Curtis's life came to a tragic end when he was impossibly young, and my main problem with this movie, is that to judge from it the way it is portrayed, his problems with epilepsy and women simply do not seem tragic or insurmountable enough to warrant suicide. One gathers he was probably deeply depressive and emotionally disturbed, but not from anything the movie really makes clear, so he comes across as a monumentally self-involved prick. I am all for the de-mythification of legends, but the movie robs its central character of much tragic depth by ignoring his emotional context. You can spell these problems out without turning the film into a tear jerker, which seems what the filmmakers were justifiably trying to avoid. But dramatically it doesn't work and instead of feeling a deep sense of loss, one thinks: what an idiot.
Control made me think of Sid and Nancy, the magnificent film by Alex Cox, about the terrible demise of Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. That film was awash in context, not with cheap psychobabble, but with the background of coming of age in Britain in the Eighties. It is such a riot of anarchy, it manages to exhilarate and appall at the same time. Obviously, the willfully detached lads of Joy Division were not like the unleashed beasts of the Sex Pistols, but Control seems too polished to deal with basic personal stuff that would have given more meaning to Mr. Curtis's untimely death.
It turns out I'm not the only one who feels this way. I am deeply grateful to the fabulous Mimosa, reporting from Paris, who always sends me truly interesting, intelligent and thought-provoking links through the internets.

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