Thursday, November 08, 2007

control / release

Five images I just "stole" off the google image search, they're stills from Anton Corbijn's beautiful Ian Curtis/Joy Division biopic "Control". There could be loads more of these moody black and white stills that seem vaguely familiar in style if you know Corbijns work with Depeche Mode, U2, etc. The look of the film is the most striking thing, all shades of grey, black and white, recording a re-imagined desolation, isolation, internal struggle, and the general greyness (if that can be a word) of the time and place. This is combined with sudden outburts of marvellous live reconstructions of JD concerts and TV appearances, the sharp almost military rhythm, the precise delivery, the moody dark voice, all suddenly more present than ever and interrupting the long shots where nothing much seems to happen. I think it's a very touching tribute, and it worked for me.

When I first came across Joy Division, I felt I was lured into the presence of an extremely romantic transript of a literally haunted bunch of souls. It seemed to come from somewhere else. The graveyard in Genoa with its giant mausoleums. The North of England seemed like a mythical landscape. It seemed so sophisticated and knowing too. What the film makes clear and evokes so strikingly in its visual language is the very mundaneness of the environment out of which they came. It does romaticize it a bit, but it's mostly quite downbeat, with the odd flashes of humour, quirkyness, character sure, but it's mostly quite depressing. Curtis' struggle to juggle his encroaching illness, a job, a wife and kid, a band that becomes quickly too successful for him to handle, and a foreign girlfriend is depicted in a way that is quite sympathetic. "Control" really tries to tell a story that needs to be told, and mostly succeeds to bring to life quite a few of the harrowing scenes in Deborah Curtis' book "Touching From A Distance". And yet, it is a very arty film. Corbijn has always been good to find striking visual images out of unlikely situations. So the main impression of the film is the way it fills the screen with these long, impeccably captured scenes. Go back to the late 70s and early 80s if you want to see it like it was. And it's made for cinema, it looks and sounds good on the big screen so you can fully immerse yourself in it.

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