Friday, October 26th, 2007
Cred-killing confession time – I’ve never really liked Joy Division. Respect, acknowledge the importance of, own the two albums by, yes. Really like? Not so much. I’ve always been more a New Order guy, if just because they wrote pop songs. Joy Division were, basically, too heavy for me. And it’s probably terribly cliche to say, but seeing Control has given me a whole new appreciation for the band.
The first thing that needs to be said about Control is that it’s visually stunning. If for aesthetic reasons alone, it deserves the glowing reviews that it’s been getting. Though his first time helming a feature, Anton Corbijn’s mastery of visuals has been well-proven in his music videos and photography so there’s no surprise that the film would look sumptuous but that doesn’t keep your jaw off the floor. Every shot, every scene, is so perfectly composed and lit that you could literally take any single frame of the film, blow it up and hang it on a wall. And what’s most impressive is that it seems so effortless – very few shots are obviously staged or deliberately “arty”, instead it seems like every element just fell into place because that’s where and how it was meant to be.
But appearances mean nothing if the film is hollow and thanks to superb lead performances from Sam Riley as Ian Curtis and Samantha Morton as Deborah Curtis, there’s real heart and humanity to the film. Corbijn opts to follow their story in a slightly detached manner, moving at a slowish but steady pace towards its final, inevitable and tragic conclusion but ensuring the film is about them and their story. While the Joy Division story is obviously integral to the tale, it’s not the central topic – just context. That’s not to say that the music isn’t given its due for the scenes of the band playing are electrifying. Riley, doing his own vocals just as the rest of the actors/band plays their instruments live, channels Curtis’ intensity and charisma and really conveys just how revolutionary they must have sounded thirty years ago and, as I listen to them for the first time in ages and with fresh ears, still do.
It’s not a perfect film – it wavers a bit at the end when dealing with Curtis’ suicide, trying to compress all explanation and rationale for it into the final act and Corbijn loses the distance that had served so well to that point – but it is an exceptional one and absolutely worth seeing whether you’re a Joy Division fan or not, but especially if you are.
And I couldn’t help but compare the portrayals of Joy Division in Control and 24 Hour Party People, thanks to YouTube. Riley’s portrayal of Curtis is light years superior, and I remember thinking that Sean Harris’ portrayal in the Winterbottom film was pretty good. I have to give the nod to 24 Hour‘s Bernard Sumner though, if only because John Simm looks uncannily like Barney. Both films were pretty in synch as to their Rob Grettons and I also found it comforting somehow that Peter Hook is universally portrayed as an asshole. And a bit of trivia from IMDB – Sam Riley played The Fall’s Mark E Smith in a cameo in 24 Hour Party People. How about that?
Scott Wilkinson of British Sea Power discusses their new album Do You Like Rock Music?, out February 12 of next year, with Billboard. I’m anxiously awaiting this new album but hope it’s better than the Krackenhaus? EP, which has failed to excite me so far.
It’s not too often that a show announcement sneaks up on me to the point that the first I hear of it is opening up the latest issue of NOW, but this one did and what a pleasant surprise it is. Spiritualized at the Phoenix, November 17. Now I’ve seen Spiritualized before and didn’t really care for the last couple records, but this show is part of the Spriritualized Acoustic Mainline tour and features J Spacemen unplugged with string sections and gospel singers. To get an idea of how good that’ll sound, check out the live clip from their performance at All Tomorrow’s Parties earlier this year. I’d call this a must-see. Simple Kid supports, tickets $26.50, on sale Saturday.
And just announced – Peter Bjorn & John will make up their cancelled V-Fest appearance with a show at the Phoenix on January 22 of next year. Which really isn’t that far off.