Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
If its fall it must be biopic time!
At least the arc of this one is different than most. Control is based on a book written by the wife of Ian Curtis and details his life and their relationship from 73 to 80.
The story of the band and the times in which they lived is part of the mythical annals of rock by now. The band was formed after the legendary Sex Pistol's show at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall in '76 and went on to sign with Tony Wilson's Factory Records and became the kings of Manchester. Two years later their debut album was released and two later again the band was done and Curtis dead by his own hand.
Much of this was already committed to film in 24 Hour Party People, an outstanding piece, but the tones of the two couldn't be more different.
The film is the first feature from Anton Corbijn, iconic photographer (U2, Depeche Mode) and music video director ("Heart shaped Box," "One - European Version") who has first hand knowledge of the people, scene and music in the film. The picture of Curtis portrayed in the film is much different than that in 24 HPP. He is a romantic poet who marries at 18, works contentedly for the British employment service whist not with the band and until his first grand mal seizure is a fairly upbeat person. Once he begins having fits though things turn south. His wife becomes pregnant and they grow distant while his is on the road where he meets another woman. He is also placed on a potent cocktail of medication in a (failing) effort to stave off the fits. Finally when faced with divorce and shame over his condition he hangs himself in his kitchen.
As one would expect from Corbijn, the film is in high contrast black and white and the composition of every shot is beautiful. What I didn’t expect (though perhaps should of) were the vast amounts of dry British sarcasm and dark humor that make up most of the film. The only time queues are at the beginning and end of the film but for the most part Corbijn keeps the pace strong and steady until the last act where we see Curtis falling apart. And as Curtis, Sam Riley (who also had a part in 24HPP) is stunning. He’s cool and tortured all at the same time and knocks out the vocals with eerie likeness.
Of course, the music (iTunes) though is the real highlight. JD’s tracks sound great and they are all performed by the actors themselves. Bowie, Iggy Pop, Sex Pistols, Velvet Underground, Buzzcocks, Roxy Muxic & John Cooper Clarke all make appearances and New Order (the 3 remaining members of JD) provides original scoring pieces as well.
A tragic story but a great film.
Check out the cast doing "Transmission" live from the soundtrack. (MP3)
Thursday, November 08, 2007
After two attempts to the mainstream the Coen brothers go back to their roots and ironically will likely get the BO success they so desired. But don't expect to be blown away by this film. It's been hyped way to much for that. This is a solid cat & mouse, western set in 1980 but it lacks the jaw-dropping moments of flash shown some of their earlier work. The Coen signatures are present again including a blacker than pitch vilian stunningly pulled off by Javier Bardem. He is after Josh Brolin who has stumbled upon a satchel of cash lost in a literal mexican stand-off. Brolin is also in top form as is the old cop on the case played by Tommy Lee. Aside from a fairly tired turn from Woody Harrelson the acting is top notch.
Of course much of that is due to the lines the are given. The script is vintage Coens. Though I don't know how much was in the source material, the dialogue is like west Texas's wet dream of it's quirky self... and the black humor that comes from much of it is priceless. Of course there is that ending, or lack there of. Much will be made of this - indeed the screening was closed with quite a few whiskey, tango, foxtrots - but I found it satisfying in a way that the sentimentality of 3:10 to Yuma was not.
Like Fargo reinvents the Noir (Film Blanc anyone?) this film takes a western and dresses it up in 80's K-Mart threads and Ford Broncos and it works just fine. They make the case that the west of the 1980 was bloodier and more frightening than that which had come before... echoing the times that we live in, especially here in Philly.
The Electric Soft Parade - Appropriate Ending