****Well I went to see Control last night and liked lots of it, with the overall impression being created one of a dark romantic who, perhaps too young, did not react well to multiple changing circumstances, including those that his earlier romantic impulses - get married and have a kid - ironically bought him closer to line with the honest/working Macc culture.
Corbijn is suggesting that Curtis was much happier sitting up late talking poetry, concepts and records, talking about life and death to avert being drawn to the latter. There’s a didactic tone too in showing that drinking didn’t help (and probably the lethal unproven range of prescription drugs too), and the contrast between the four empty walls of each room of their family home and the heightened life of rockworld is evident. I didn’t like the persistent visual reminders of the hanging machine. Curtis seemed to increasingly feel that Unknown Pleasures was going to be the definitive statement, realising that the artifact would always wield more power, more control than he ever could.
The band and the music impersonation do it too, giving the songs a real thump that is perhaps only remembered by the gig goers of the time as Hannett took it in a new direction. Riley is best when he is singing – sometimes really getting the voice right – and in his on-stage persona. Elsewhere, the studio rendition of Isolation sounded American. Off-stage and the speaking accent is generic northern. And unfortunately, Riley doesn’t look like Curtis he looks like romantic chancer Pete Doherty.
I said a few weeks ago that maybe the post-punk Manchester reminiscence industry would wither with Wilson’s passing, but that was always wishful thinking. And ignorant of the imminent release of Corbijn’s Curtis biopic, Control
. It has been interesting to hear the indie kids at work explain the film to the uninitiated – “going to see a film about a singer in this moody band who killed himself; should be a laugh [because obviously everything has to have bona fide 'entertainment' value]”.
Now the film is out in the UK, and after the super Cannes reaction, it’s being sold as film of the year as well as 2007’s “coolest”, as if such a notion ever mattered to the protagonist, or as if the subject of nervous disintegration can be sublimated with a trendy patina.
“As far as I am concerned, it’s a proper film about a real person. It’s not just the Joy Division film"
Corbijn in Mojo
Yet beyond the eulogies, beyond Corbijn’s desire to control the perception of the film with his own articles, there is discontent from the very people and milieu this film is closest to. Post-punk M’Cr stalwart Corky wasn’t impressed
; an ex-New Order road crew, one third of the trio who do the Cerysmatic Factory
website wasn't keen; neither is photographer Kevin Cummins; and Curtis’ daughter Natalie received a public rebuke from Corbijn for offering a very balanced assessment
from her own particular, highly personal perspective.
It’s possible that critically Control will suffer from the same problem as This is England
, the directorial obsession with getting the surface - ie, the environment/milieu, and music – right in preference to the more onerous task of psychological mapping leaves it a bit short. They look and sound great these UK evocations but are a bit depthless. It also seems Corbijn unashamedly plays down the role of the band in his desire to focus on Curtis. Then there’s the fact that if ever a band/act/singer were destined to live on in the haunted afterlife of recordings and memory factories, it was Curtis and Joy Division. What’s not been said? What part of Ian’s demise hasn’t been endlessly analysed? As Corky said on email: “It just seems so unnecessary”. The art of their albums, live TV recordings and photographed mystique already generates a healthy unlife.
This is a preview as I’m going to see it in the comfy Greenwich Picturehouse tomorrow, and should report back. If you’re not a big JD fan but curious to delve in, maybe investing in the re-released albums will draw the most inspiration and insights, as happened with the originals.
Simon in NYT
Mark: Nihil Rebound