The Null Device
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Tonight I saw Control, Anton Corbijn's Ian Curtis biopic.
It was quite well done, I thought. As you'd expect from Corbijn, it had its starkly atmospheric shots (entirely in black and white), echoing some of the famous photos he took of Joy Division. The aesthetic of the film was quite sparse, with long shots of rooms and council estates, much said with no words but only expressions, and an equally sparse soundtrack, with the most sparing use of incidental music. (Parts of it had a German expressionist quality; it could have almost been a Fritz Lang film from the 1930s.)
The danger with this film was that it could have easily been just another exercise in style over substance, in capturing the legend of a mythical band in a time-capsule of stylised cool. However, thankfully, it wasn't; it seemed reasonably faithful (albeit from Deborah Curtis' point of view, leavened with an imagined view from Ian's perspective). Watching it, I got the feeling of Ian's predicament, the trap he was drawing into, the terrible forces tearing him (and those around him) apart. He wasn't some darkly romantic, tortured hero, just a lad from Macclesfield ill-equipped for what fate threw at him. And the film really carried across how young and unprepared he was.
The music was pretty good too; the actors playing Joy Division played all the music on stage, and did a bang-up job of it, pulling off intense performances. (I can imagine that the actual gigs would have been just like that.)
Having said that, the Killers' cover of Shadowplay in the closing credits was entirely unnecessary. Who signed off on that one?
The Graun has a piece on Control, Anton Corbijn's soon-to-be-released film about Ian Curtis and Joy Division, along with interviews with the surviving members of the band:
"I couldn't believe how well it goes with the film," [Peter Hook] says. "It captures the Manchester of the 1970s so well. Control doesn't feel like the end of the story; the documentary closes things off perfectly. But Anton's film is more chilling. Towards the end, it felt like someone had ripped out my heart and was stamping on it. To be honest, when Atmosphere came on, I thought I was going to throw up."
"This sounds awful but it was only after Ian died that we sat down and listened to the lyrics," says Morris. "You'd find yourself thinking, 'Oh my God, I missed this one.' Because I'd look at Ian's lyrics and think how clever he was putting himself in the position of someone else. I never believed he was writing about himself. Looking back, how could I have been so bleedin' stupid? Of course he was writing about himself. But I didn't go in and grab him and ask, 'What's up?' I have to live with that. Watching the film, there were moments when I wished I could have stepped into the film. Unfortunately, you can't."
All three members agree, more or less, on Joy Division/New Order's position in the scheme of things. "When I listen to Nirvana, I hear [New Order's] Ceremony bass line on quite a few of those songs. So I'd have to say, yes, we are the missing link between the Beatles and Nirvana," says Hook.The article concludes to say that "enhanced versions" of Joy Division's albums are being released soon. I hope that "enhanced" doesn't mean "remastered with lots of compression for extra loudness".
The biography of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, Touching From A Distance, is being made into a film, with Anton Corbijn (the Dutch photographer who directed videos for Depeche Mode, and (I think) made the video of Atmosphere as well) directing and Tony Wilson and Curtis' widow (and author of the biography) Deborah as executive producers.
It's good to hear that it has beaten this highly-marketable piece of shite to the punch.
A film about Ian Curtis is being planned. Unfortunately, the producer (Amy Hobby, who did Secretary) is pitching it as the story of Curtis as a "tragic romantic", and, even worse, the musical advisor is that purveyor of bland yuppie dinner-party techno, Moby. (via xrrf)
With credentials such as these, you can't hold out much hope for it. Though wasn't there meant to be another Ian Curtis film, based on his widow's biography of him, Touching From A Distance, and produced with the involvement of the members of New Order?
A good Pitchfork article on Joy Division, looking into their origins, the recording of their various releases, and the inner conflict of Ian Curtis. Worth a read. (via The Fix)