After the film festival where I managed to see 8 feature films and 5 shorts, you’d have thought I might have wanted a break from the cinema for a while. And ordinarily I probably would have, but Control has just come out and I was impatient to see it. So we went to the cinema on a miserable Tuesday evening.
I really enjoyed it although as with most films I’ve seen in the last two weeks ‘enjoyment’ doesn’t really seem an appropriate emotion. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but somehow I thought it would be more experimental than it was – it was very much a straightforward biopic, albeit a beautifully shot one with fantastic music.
A few years ago I did try to read Deborah Curtis’ book ‘Touching from a Distance’ on which it is based, but the ins and outs of Ian Curtis’ domestic arrangements didn’t really interest me. I think I preferred the image of the tragic artist to the reality, but perhaps it’s a sign that I’ve grown up that the ordinariness is just as interesting. And when I cried at the end (rather embarrassingly as we were soon thrust out into the glaring light of the shopping centre, where my red eyes and trembling lip couldn’t be hidden), it wasn’t so much for the waste of genius, but for the broken family and friends left behind.
In interviews with the surviving members, its always obvious how devastated they were by the loss of their frontman at a ridiculously young age, but as a friend probably more than a creative force (they did after all recover and go on to greater success as New Order) and I don’t think that has ever left them. Control shows that friendship, the laddish behaviour, the ordinariness and their absolute youth which hadn’t equipped them to deal with this.
I do wonder though who is going to see Control besides those who already love Joy Division?
It doesn’t have any big stars in it like ‘Walk the Line’ (which I found hugely disappointing) or the triumphing adversity that ‘Ray’ did that seems to pack ‘em in at the multiplex, and it certainly doesn't glamorise rock n roll death as perhaps The Doors might. To existing fans the story is probably already well known what with the book, 24 Hour Party People, various Manchester music documentaries (which have been in overdrive recently with the death of Tony Wilson and the anticipation of this film). The story of Factory Records and its various bands is something so familiar to me, I suppose as the story of The Beatles might be to someone growing up in the sixties or Bible stories are to a strong Christian. I might have wondered if I really needed to see another film about this but it still brought something new to the subject and especially proves an interesting counterpoint to 24 Hour Party People, which was very much Wilson's story whereas this is undoubtedly Ian Curtis'.