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CONTROL

Director: ANTON CORBIJN

U.K.-U.S.A. • 2007 BLACK AND WHITE • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 121 MIN


THE BACKSTAGE CLICHES OF THE ROCK BIOPIC ARE EXPLORED IN THIS REVELATORY PORTRAIT OF THE EMOTIONAL PRESSURES BEHIND THE SUICIDE OF JOY DIVISION FRONTMAN IAN CURTIS AT THE TENDER AGE OF 23.
Curtis died in 1980, but the Mancunian band’s sepulchral guitarscapes and visionary lyrics today remain as influential as ever, creating a trans-generational fan base eager to measure this celluloid tribute against the legend. Based on a memoir by the singer’s widow Deborah, and with Curtis’s surviving band mates New Order supervising the soundtrack, this first feature from Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn (who has shot everyone from Joy Division and U2 to Captain Beefheart) has all the right credentials, none of which, of course, were any guarantee that the film would turn out as well as it has.
Recreating grotty ’70s Macclesfield in crisp widescreen black-and-white, it’s a striking reminder that while Curtis’s talent and stage presence fitted him for the role of rock icon, the rest of his life most certainly did not, what with marriage to his teen sweetheart, his civil service job, and the medication he was taking for his epilepsy. Newcomer Sam Riley’s mesmerising central performance brings these contradictions into sharp relief as Curtis’s dreams of escape through music contrive to undermine his domestic stability (Samantha Morton’s tangibly bereft as his suffering spouse), leaving him wracked by mounting guilt. Musically persuasive thanks to the cast playing their instruments live, and invigorated by much sarcastic Lancastrian wit, it’s a cumulatively affecting chronicle of an inner journey which could only have one destination. ‘Love will tear us apart’ indeed.—Trevor Johnston.

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