Saturday, November 17, 2007

Control (Review)

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)

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