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What Control?

Why is it that biopics are all about portraying their subject in the most favorable light possible? The only exception I can think of is that Ed Harris vehicle about Jackson Pollack a few years to the rear. Anton Corbijn's Control the story of Ian Curtis the singer of Joy Division is no different from the pattern.

Curtis grew up in Macclesfield, somewhere near Manchester, England (a suburb perhaps?) a dreary place with dreary parents. At least this is what the film has us believe. He marries at what must be age 17 and then begins his career in Joy Division. Things seem to be OK until he is diagnosed with epilepsy. This begins his inevitable spiral into drugs, alcohol, depression, and infidelity. Oh yes, throw in a baby daughter for more plot complication.

My problem isn't Curtis' struggle with his condition, my problem is the POV of the film, "Gosh, his life is so sad, there's no hope for him, I hope everything turns out OK." According to the film, no one called Curtis on his infidelity, no one seemed to try to help him with his problems--sure they were sympathetic, but no one wanted to do the hard work of helping this guy get out of the hole he dug for himself.

Curtis killed himself in 1980, unable to deal with the pain of his condition and the fact that he couldn't stay married to his wife Deborah and keep a woman on the side. I'm simplifying a bit, but I trust you get the point.

The film itself is wonderfully shot in black and white emphasizing the drabness of Curtis' life. Corbijn pulls solid performances from his actors Sam Riley and Samantha Morton playing Curtis and his wife respectively. I also found more respect for Joy Division's music placing it in the context of the time and Curtis' life.

Walk the Line about Johnny Cash came pretty close to showing what asses so many so-called artists are (actually Pollack was even better on that count), but most fall short of any redemption, that seems to be because the society an artist surrounds himself (or herself) with coddles more than confronts.

Control is a fair movie if you're interested in Joy Division and the New Wave, but if you can't stomach another movie about a tortured artist and his inability to connect with people who really care then skip this one.


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