dimanche 20 janvier 2008

One of the best things about the movie going experience in Paris is the length of time with which movies run on screen. I am accustomed to having movies run for three weeks maximum except in the case of movie blockbusters in which case, movies can run for months at a time but it’s a different case in Paris. Take for instance Control, the movie on Joy Division’s tragic lead singer Ian Curtis. Its opening date was 26 September 2006 and to this day, a little over four months after, it is still showing in 6 theaters! Granted, it’s showing in tiny out of the way theatres but still that’s something to know that one can still catch it. It seemed a real shame then to miss this film.
Control is a film of firsts. It’s the first feature length film of director-producer Anton Corbijn who previously worked on a number of music videos and for Sam Riley, his first lead role. Notwithstanding such firsts however, the film is excellently done. Based on Deborah Curtis book Touching from a Distance, it perfectly captures in its black and white frame the tragic life of Curtis and the rise of Joy Division. It is quite ironical that the subsequent rise of Joy Division contributed to the deterioration of Curtis. From the movie we learn the exquisite toll that performing took on the frail Curtis. In one of the film’s voice overs, Curtis laments that the public doesn’t seem to realize how much he gives to each performance and only wants more. This is surely a lament still relevant today in our celebrity obsessed society. Sam Riley captures eerily the nuances of Ian Curtis and we see in his haunted eyes the torture that life and performing has become for him. It doesn’t help his case that he falls in love with the beautiful Annik Honore whom he meets in the course of the band’s tours while still married to his childhood sweetheart Debbie (played by the excellent Samantha Morton). To top it all off, he is subsequently diagnosed as epileptic. His domestic issues and increasingly frail physical state all contribute to his irrevocably fatal decision.
While the film never loses sight of its central focus on Curtis, the film does an admirable job of showing the rise of Joy Division. It helped tremendously that the cast members of the film learned to play their songs and thus could credibly perform live all their musical scenes. And the drama is leavened by its doses of humor. In one scene, Tony Wilson (music impresario) warns the band that under no circumstances can they swear on tv as they will be cut off, and what follows is a droll exchange of what words are considered swear words. The end, inevitable as it was obvious left me with a feeling of regret that Curtis did not have the reserve of strength that could have kept him going. And it is ironical, paradoxical even, that art despite its power to elevate, empower and ennoble requires a core of strength and self preservation in order to sustain it.
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