Friday, October 12, 2007

Factory Fodder

Control, Cineworld, Broad Street, Birmingham, Saturday October 6 2007, 11.30pm.

Given the chequered history of rock star biopics whose heart didn't sink when the project was announced to do a cinematic adaption of the short life and times of tragic Joy Division singer Ian Curtis? And yet the wildcard choice of selecting Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn to helm this as his first picture, a man who helped more than most to define our perception of the band with his dark and iconic portraits of the group for NME, ensures an authentic feel and the luminous B&W photography to provide a fitting tribute to this troubled soul.

Basing the screenplay on the Curtis biography from his widow Deborah also helps this film become the best rock biopic ever precisely because the music and the music business is seen within the perspective of Curtis' wider life and broader range of issues. With contemporaries such as Anton Corbijn and Deborah Curtis playing such a strong hand in the project, we're spared lazy journalism and Madchester myths in favour of something that feels more true - it's manic manager Rob Gretton who provides the comic foil not Tony Wilson, and the young Hookeh is portrayed less as a loveable rogue and more a surly careerist.

Newcomer Sam Riley looks the part as Ian Curtis with his lanky frame and faraway gaze, but also has some of the cheeky sex appeal and little-boy-lost demeanour of icon du jour Pete Doherty for topical piquancy. He comes into his own during the second half of the film as Curtis' slow, desperate descent into depression is revealed through the steadily more haunted expression in his eyes. Seeing someone with outwardly so much going for him in his life slowly but surely have the spark snuffed out of him is so credibly portrayed to be deeply troubling to watch as the denouement enfolds.

Control presents a complex and compelling explanation of what drove Curtis to suicide as he becomes an increasingly isolated figure. Facing pressures to please both women in his life and fulfil the increasing demands of the band to deliver success in America and ease financial troubles, his final devastating seizure caused by unmedicated epilepsy triggers a final, desperate solution. Maybe it's the ultimate act of petulance but as your widescreen-eyed writer made his weary, near-sober way through Birmingham's Broad Street at 1.50am, striding stealthily through so much wanton human debris there's a timely reminder that there are many ways to descend into joyless oblivion. No chance of walking away in silence here, then.

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Blogger Ben said...

Great review. Now I really MUST see the film...

7:12 AM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Cheers, Ben. You should, it's a must-see.

Struggling with a cold at the moment so likely to be no more updates here until the weekend, but anticipate gig reviews of The Departure, The Cribs and Maps in fairly short order once I've shook off the lurgy with the able assistance of Lemsip Max.

9:19 PM  

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