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Starring: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Alexandra Maria Lara, Joe Anderson, James Anthony Pearson, Harry Treadaway
A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of Joy Division whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.
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It’s hard to make a biopic film. It’s not wrong to say that biopic films are boring most of the times. It’s also not a clever thing anymore to come with an idea of a biopic movie, but… somehow it still works. Especially with the rock stars… Mostly with the ones have the interesting story…
Control, by Anton Corbijn, is a film about rock band Joy Division’s front man, Ian Curtis. Ian Curtis was an extraordinary front man of an extraordinary band of late 70s. He hanged himself in his kitchen when he was twenty-three years old. His band, Joy Division was a well-known band from England’s punk scene. They were more into post punk area and Ian Curtis’s lyrics separated them from other bands of the late 70s. This film starts with Ian Curtis’s high school days and it contains the time he joins Joy Division (first they called themselves ‘Warsaw’), his marriage, his illness, and his rising fame, and his death.
Anton Corbijn is mostly known as a music video director. He’s also a photographer and one of his first achievement as a photographer was his photo shoot of Joy Division for NME in late 70s. He knew the guys, at least he met them, and that’s one of the positive things about the film. Corbijn made a good decision of making the movie black-white because when you watch these kinds of biography films it usually looks like a documentary, instead of a fiction film. Actors are convincing and they perform live Joy Division songs, which are the best moments of the film. Corbijn is a Joy Division fan himself and he loves music so probably in the film the part he enjoys most is choosing the soundtrack. His choices are David Bowie, Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop, which were all fair choices.
This film was Sam Riley’s (Ian Curtis) first important role and he shines in his first lead role. Especially in the live music scenes he makes a great tribute to Ian Curtis with his band. Other actors and actresses also give decent performances. One of the biggest surprises of ‘Control’ is John Cooper Clarke, a British performance poet. He plays himself and also gives a short performance of his infamous poem, ‘Evidently Chickentown’.
Control is a conventional biography if you know anything about Ian Curtis. Corbijn uses Curtis’s poems and his journal, but he uses them so little. He prefers to show the well-known story of his hero, nothing more. And of course a lot of great Joy Division songs. That’s why the film sometimes looks like a music video. This is not a really negative thing to say when watching a biopic film about a rock star. If you think of big Hollywood productions about important people’s life this film is far more straightforward, and modest.
This is not the first attempt to make a film about Joy Division but it’s the first film that chooses Curtis as its main point. Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People (2002) was showing the Manchester scene and it also contains Joy Division but in that one, Tony Wilson, by Steve Coogan, was the protagonist. The other difference of these two films is the style. Both of them are easy to watch and conventional but Corbijn, unlike Winterbottom, chose a calm and sad mood. In 24 Hour People, as you can understand from the name it’s about a music scene and the parties of it, but in Control there is no party. There’s a rock star, which has an illness that obstructs him having any parties. When you watch the film you can feel sorry for him but at the end you will feel more satisfied than other biopic films you have watched.
Control is not an ambitious project by Anton Corbijn, but it is genuine that’s for sure. He’s a big fan of Joy Division and music itself and if you’re nearly a fan of the band also, the reason should be more than enough for you to enjoy this good biopic film.