Words By S.

Monday, 14 January 2008


Filed under: Film,Music — S @ 10:15 am

Control movie poster

Over the weekend, I saw Anton Corbijn’s Control. In case you couldn’t tell from the movie poster, it is the story of Joy Division front-man, Ian Curtis.

If you know Joy Division, you know about the “untimely” death of Ian, and the subsequent outcome of those involved in his life.

I wrote a previous blog entry about the book ‘Touching From A Distance’, from which this movie is largely based. In that entry, I mentioned not being able to feel anything for Ian, Deborah, or any of the involved parties. I also mentioned that the book had the tone of being a self-pitying, victimization of the writer.

While the film still produced a disconnect between me and the involved parties, there seemed to be less of the victimization of Deborah Curtis, but I’ll get to that a little later.

In my head, Control was going to be an amazing story of this enigmatic man. It was going to humanize him, tell more about his life, how the band started, how the affair began, and possibly delve into why it was that he committed suicide.

It was going to be a fantastical tale of a boy growing up in “suburban” Manchester, his family life, his relationship with a young Deborah, and his relationship with his music. It was going to be a young Ian running around with a young Peter Hook, boys being boys.

We were going to get the history of the band in all its forms. There was going to be Stiff Kittens, followed by Warsaw, followed by Joy Division. There was going to be Joy Division vs. The Fall – when, where, why? It was going to give more information than the 30 minute segment from ’24 Hour Party People’.

Instead, what I got was little more information than what I already knew.

Yes, the majority of the information came from Deborah Curtis’ ‘Touching From A Distance’, but all of New Order, Tony Wilson, and the like were involved. Somewhere in there, between all of them involved, there should have been a little more light shed on the story.

I guess my problems with the movie fall on the writing.

The acting was quite good, everyone pulled off their parts well. Sam Riley played a very convincing Ian Curtis – and even managed to get the spastic, epileptic seizure-like dance moves down. Samantha Morton played a very good Deborah. Bernard, Hooky, and Morris were all very well played. Toby Kebbell as Rob Gretton was absolutely hilarious. However, Craig Parkinson as Tony Curtis left a lot more to be desired.

In ’24 Hour Party People’, Steve Coogan’s Wilson was over the top, loony, and funny in the best of ways. He was sarcastic, he was a dick, he had dimension. In ‘Control’, Parkinson’s Wilson was subdued, low-key, and boring. I quite understand that in ’24 Hour’ Wilson was the major focus, as the film was about Factory Records, La Hacienda, and all things Tony. This doesn’t mean that he should be so boring as a secondary character. Tony Wilson was never a boring, stale person at all.

That was a major disappointment.

The music in the film was utterly fantastic. This sort of goes without saying, my being a Joy Division fan. However, the music was done by the actors, performed live on set just for the movie. It could have been disastrous. It could have been Sam Riley attempting to clone Ian Curtis’ vocal nuances at every turn, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was Sam Riley not really attempting to sound too much like Curtis at all,and in turn making the music his own. And it was done extremely well. “Bernard Sumner”, “Peter Hook” and “Steven Morris” all did amazingly well at making the music their own, as well. It was refreshing to hear a re-creation of the music, rather than a carbon copy. It was almost like hearing a reincarnate Joy Division.

It was also refreshing to see humor throughout this film. It would have been very easy to make a doom and gloom piece about Ian Curtis and Joy Division. After all, your subject matter is a man who killed himself at the age of 23, a band whose music was quite moody, and this legendary band who people take very seriously. It’s very easy to forget that they were still all very young, and had friendships from very young ages. The humor – dry in some spots, and crass in others, was very appropriate and did humanize them to a degree. There were the usual 20 year-old male fart and sex jokes, and antics. It’s not so often that you would see such a thing in a movie like this one.

As I mentioned before, I expected more about Ian’s affair. In her book, Deborah Curtis mentions finding out about Ian’s affair with Annik Honoré, the Belgian music journalist. She talks about how Ian and Annik managed to keep their affair going with the help of band members and Tony Wilson sheltering the two of them. In the movie, the start of the affair is shown, and Ian grappling with his feelings for both Annik and his wife, but not much else is shown.

In ‘Touching From A Distance’, Deborah portrays herself as a helpless victim, slighted by this affair. She portrays herself as clueless as to what was happening, and unable to do anything about it once she found out. In the film, however, Deborah is portrayed as having some backbone and standing up for herself. In the film, she confronts Ian several times, and eventually asks for a divorce – as I’m sure she did in real life. In the film, Deborah is portrayed as a fairly charming, plain woman who knows what she wants and knows how to stand up for it. She’s fairly clever, and funny. She’s utterly sympathetic, allowing the audience to feel for her. I’m sure this was what Deborah was attempting to convey in the book, but something was lost in translation between brain and pen, and this picture was askew. The film helped to bring this portrayal of her back to the masses.

The portrayal of Annik Honoré as “the other woman” was pretty one-dimensional.  I’m sure the fact that Deborah Curtis was involved in production had a little to do with this.  And though she was the “other woman”, it would have been nice to give her some dimension and shed some light on what the fuss was all about.  After all, if you’re going to continue an affair for years, there has to be something there besides sex.

Overall, Control proves to be a good companion piece to 24 Hour Party People and ‘Touching From A Distance’.  It was an okay film.  It doesn’t shed much more light on any one aspect of Ian’s life than anything else has.  It didn’t make me feel any more or less than what I already had for any of the  parties involved.  In short, it wasn’t a life changing, epic, stunning film.  It was a run of the mill, story of a man and a band and an affair that was shot very prettily.



  1. Sounds like there is enough there to make me go and see this film anyway – thanks for the review!

    Comment by Oscarandre — Saturday, 19 January 2008 @ 5:48 pm | Reply

  2. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation :) Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Tellurium.

    Comment by Tellurium — Thursday, 19 June 2008 @ 5:34 am | Reply

  3. I enjoyed the movie, not so much for the story of of Ian (which was rather dramatic, but the storytelling was just going through the motions. It introduced me to the music of Joy Divison, and a new appreciation for New Order.

    Comment by mr jp — Saturday, 25 October 2008 @ 10:19 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: