Wednesday, February 1, 2012

100 Movies - No. 24: Control

24. Control (2007)
Drama, Biography, 122 minutes
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Starring Sam Riley and Samantha Morton

I don't go to the theater as often as I should, but I will never forget the day I went to see Control. I love Joy Division's music and just had to know how Corbijn would portray their story on the big screen. It was only shown in one Toronto cinema, so it meant taking the subway to an area of the city that was unfamiliar to me. About six other people bothered to show up.

Music is something that I am passionate about, and sometimes that passion borders on obsession. I have flown 3,000 miles to see a Throwing Muses concert, so it isn't something I take lightly. I never got to see Joy Division live, so I wanted to feel what it might have been like. The result was a powerful experience that left the small audience in some kind of daze. The actors learned how to play the songs and they performed all the songs in the film. As soon as I heard the first few notes of the first song, every hair on my body stood up. It would have been a great time to shave.

Corbijn's choice to shoot in black and white reflected the dreary setting and bleak nature of the story. We see Curtis (Riley) taking home Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and experiencing it for the first time. The story shows his love for poetry and writing, and it's easy to understand how important music was in his life. The film feels authentic and it's clear that Corbijn's work was a labor of love.

Although the film tells a sad tale, it contains plenty of humor. It becomes clear that Curtis was a young man who genuinely loved two different women. The conflict tore him apart and those feelings were a part of every song he wrote. He mentions in the film that the audience didn't realize how much he gave during each performance, and that they always wanted him to give more. You may not appreciate the style of music, and you may even hate it, but you would probably concede that it was real rather than some kind of act. Joy Division produced music that matters.

I would recommend the movie to anyone who likes Joy Division, music, or biopics. One of my friends hated the music before seeing the film, but was moved by the story and gained some kind of appreciation for what Curtis was trying to achieve.

Last year, I went to see Peter Hook and the Light in Toronto. Hook's bass was a big part of Joy Division's sound and the songs had never been played live in North America before he decided to tour. I doubted that he would do justice to the songs and almost didn't go, but I'm glad that I did. The concert was superb and the band played the songs perfectly. Hook's vocals were clearly part of a performance rather than something that ripped his life apart, but I'll always be glad I heard those songs live. It was like being transported back in time 30 years and the feel of the music pulsing through me was a unique experience.

Fans of the band will love Control, but it's worth seeing even if you have never heard of Joy Division. It gives additional meaning to the songs you may already think you know.

If you like Control:

Joy Division fans should also see the 2007 documentary, Joy Division, which goes into a lot more depth about the band.

Corbijn is a thoughtful director who approaches things in a unique way. He does a great job of showing how an assassin might actually think in The American, but don't watch it if you need a lot of action to keep you interested.

Click here for my full review of Control.

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  1. I thought the movie was ok but, i feel it could have done differently