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JOY DIVISION

Director: GRANT GEE

U.K. • 2007 • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 93 MIN


YOU DON’T REALLY KNOW THE FULL STORY OF BRITAIN’S MOST INFLUENTIAL POST-PUNK BAND UNTIL YOU’VE SEEN THIS IMPECCABLE DOCUMENTARY, IN WHICH THE SURVIVING MEMBERS TELL THEIR OWN STORY.
It’s still hard to believe that a bunch of kids from the crumbling environs of Manchester made music so powerful it’s barely dated almost thirty years on, but Grant Gee’s film assembles a sort of muso-social-geography to chart the connections between the Sex Pistols-inspired DIY musical rebellion and the city’s post-industrial wasteland reflected back in Ian Curtis’s doom-haunted lyrics. Seeing the priceless live footage collected here, it’s impossible not to sense in Curtis’s basilisk stare and man-possessed dance moves an individual apart, and the circumstances leading to his tragic suicide in 1980 are chronicled with some sensitivity. Revealing testimony from his Joy Division cohorts suggests an awful chain reaction, with the band’s increasing fame affecting Curtis’s worsening neurological condition, and the impact on spouse Deborah of his affair with Belgian music journalist Annik Honore (who speaks here, affectingly, for the first time) further destabilising an already fragile psyche. Anton Corbijn’s Control has already covered some of this ground very capably, but here we’re offered a broader picture as the occasionally defensive interviews reveal how no-one around Curtis had the maturity to realise what he was going through—they were just kids themselves, after all. With telling contributions from late Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, and smart graphic design which would not have shamed one of the label’s beautifully turned-out releases, the bracket term ‘music doc’ hardly does justice to this insightful, perceptive, loving portrait.—Trevor Johnston.

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