Monday, October 01, 2007

Substance

I’ve been planning this post for a while now; ever since I first read the guardian review where Peter Hook, Joy Division and New Order bassist was quoted as saying:

‘it felt like someone had ripped out my heart’

He’s talking about Anton Corbijn’s film ‘Control’. I knew as soon as I read the review that I would have to go and see the film. It tells the story of Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis who committed suicide on the eve of their US Tour in 1980. I don’t think I’m giving away the ending by telling you, because to be honest I can’t think of anyone who would go and see the film unless they liked Joy Division. I know, I tried and I watched my friend’s faces fall one after the other as I gave them a briefer synopsis and asked them if they wanted to go, but a surprise text from a fellow fan prevented me from going on my own.

I read an interview with Corbijn the week the film was released. Corbijn was big into the Manchester scene in the late 70’s and when photographing Joy Division he had no idea what they were saying because his English was poor and they had strong accents. If you’ve seen black and white moody shots of Ian Curtis, they are probably Corbijn’s shots.

‘Control’ is based on Deborah Curtis’s (Ian’s widow) book called ‘Touching from a Distance’ and I also noticed as the credit’s rolled that she was heavily involved in the production of the film.

And then there’s me, part of the audience, but first let’s go back to my thirteen or fourteen year old self. All I have for music is this tinny tape deck and big bro has the 70 watt speakers and after years of heavy metal and punk, finally something good is pounding through the walls. In the end the reason Joy Division still speaks to so many teenagers is that Curtis’s lyrics captured that feeling of ‘otherness’ so perfectly. When I finally got my own stereo with no records to play on it, it was big bro’s Joy Division records that I sneaked out of his room to listen to (along with Dad’s top notch headphones so that I could hear Hooky’s baselines crystal clear).

So here I am half a lifetime away and I know the music and I know what happened, but somehow I expected more. The score of Control is fantastic, the photography is beautiful, but I left with this feeling that it was a film for fans. There wasn’t enough substance on the screen for an outsider to understand anything more. There were lines and moments that were brutally painful, but that was because of the experience that I had walked into the cinema with. Corbijn’s characters were like moving stills. That didn’t make the story any less harrowing or take away the feeling of shock at the end, but I just wondered. I wondered if we hadn’t been fans would it have been a different film.

15 comments:

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Wow. That's something else. I never knew about this. It's so sad.

Scarlett & V.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Brilliant bit of reviewing Miss Verilion!

kimy said...

ditto to av - despite the shortcomings of the film, I must look for it!

Verilion said...

Hi Scarlett, glad to have enlightened you, even though it is a sad story.
Thanks Vanilla and Kimy it would be interesting to hear your take on the film if you do see it.

Marie said...

I used to quite like Joy Division so I'd certainly like to see this film.

Soph said...

This is a great review - I haven't heard of the film myself, but I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it. Very interesting. :)

Shameless said...

Verilion, just checking that you do know that you are it for the short story bit over at the writing circle? You were nominated by Vanilla. We look forward to your words! :-)

Cailleach said...

V, I've been waiting for this film to come out ever since I heard about it. That's a good question that you ask about Joy Division and the film. I think you'd have to be a fan and into that whole era of music to really get it.

Good luck with your part of Grace's story!

Minx said...

Oh, oh, time to get the DM's out again! I have some very precious Joy Division LP's and will be looking forward to the film - thanks V.

Verilion said...

Hi Cailleach, yeah I think you need to be a fan too, or at least brush up by watching 24 hour party people first. And Minx what do you mean get out the DM's? Why did you put them away in the first place? Shameless will write you an e mail.

Shameless said...

Verilion,
Do you have another email address? The one at wanadoo.fr hasn't worked. My reply to your email has bounced back three times.

apprentice said...

Interesting review. I've read it's a great looking film, which is probably due to the director's photographer's eye.

I think the fact that film is based on his wife's experiences probably accounts for the feeling that you don't feel the connection you should, as everything in the story is coming through one very powerful filter.

kyklops said...

I never really liked Joy Division back when, but I'm listening to them as I write this (Substance) and it's pretty fuckin' good...

[Why is it that half-blind geezers like me get all the really loooonngg verification words? Doh...]

Shameless said...

Hi Verilion,
Still no luck getting an email to you ... it keeps coming back to me. Agghhhh. I got your mail about the lion's project ... and I understand :-) ... Would you like me to go ahead and nominate someone else, like you suggested? :-)

Verilion said...

Oops hi Marie, I missed you out the first time round and Soph. I would recommend going to see it. I might watch it again when it's out on DVD.
Apprentice I agree with you. Right from the beginning I felt that the wife's character was very 2D. There are rare moments, but she wants to tell Ian's story without telling her own, even though she is completely part of it. I imagine it must be hard to have your life splashed out on the screen for all to see, but maybe it would have been more rounded if she hadn't been involved.
And Kyklops I kind of missed them too, they were already New Order by the time I got to know of them, but I was captured by their darkness straight away. And the reason you get really long verification words is cos blogger is secretly filming all of us struggling away and getting a real laugh out of this.

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