Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Control ***1/2


Director: Anton Corbijn
Cast: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton
Alexandra Maria Lara, Joe Anderson, Toby Kebell, Craig Parkinson

"You are so depressing" says Annik (Lara) to Ian (Riley), before she embraces him and gives him a kiss. He just stares blankly into the distance. Affected, surprised, scared, somehow moved and indifferent towards these words. This moment could very well sum up "Control", Anton Corbijn's stunning debut feature about the life of doomed Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis.
The film begins with a 17 year old Ian leading a normal life in Macclesfield, England where he dreams of being in a band.
He meets Debbie (Morton) who is dating his best friend Nick (Matthew McNulty) but marries Ian in a heartbeat.
Soon they come to find that the married life is not their thing and while Debbie tries to shape herself as the perfect housewife, Ian begins looking for a band to sing in, while working as a clerk at the local Employment Exchange.
He meets Bernard Summer (James Anthony Pearson), Peter Hook (Anderson) and Terry Mason (Andrew Sheridan) with whom he forms Joy Division. They get a lucky break when they appear in Tony Wilson's (Parkinson) TV show, which brags about being the first to have played "The Beatles and The Buzzcocks" and before long they have become quite famous in Europe, but somehow this fame and the troubles that come with it are more than Curtis bargained for.
With a revealtroy performance by Riley, the film almost works like a documentary. While Riley nails the singing voice, the poise and the dance, his miraculous work lies in the little moments.
Playing Curtis like a manchild, trapped between real life and what he wants life to be, Riley creates a remarkable portrait of loneliness.
"A cloud hovers over me, marks every move" he narrates and perhaps there was nobody who was as conscious of his mortality as Curtis.
Ian was alone, even when he was surrounded by people. Riley somehow gives a perfect performance about a very imperfect person. While Curtis seemed to doubt every decision he took, Riley bravely dives and evokes this mood.
Morton is terrific because instead of playing Debbie like one of those suffering biopic wives, she creates a woman who was in love with an ideal. The pain inside her doesn't come whenever Curtis does her wrong, but in more of a "Madame Bovary" realization that this can actually happen to her.
Parkinson plays a splendid Wilson and Anderson is magnificent infusing the film with a droll sense of humor which it often needs.
Not your typical film about the weight of fame, "Control" is never condescending towards its lead character, since Ian often comes out looking like a real bastard.
He neglects his pregnant wife when he falls for Annik and has no problem confessing his infidelity and later asking for a second opportunity.
But what makes this film such a remarkable portrait isn't its raw depiction of Curtis, but also its selfconsciousness about its limitations.
Corbijn never tries to suggest he knew what was going on inside Curtis' head, instead he lets the events and Joy Division's music speak for themselves.
With the aid of cinematographer Martin Ruhe, the director makes something stunning out of this film. Every frame seems like a lost piece of rock history in a way "Control" is like a musical biopic imagined by Michelangelo Antonioni.
There is not a single image that isn't important and the elements fit into it creating a sort of melodical feel, which is why the result is reminiscent of one of the band's songs: extremely controlled on the surface, but hiding an emotional truth so dark, that it can't be contained.
The restrained pain within the movie has a musical effect on us: we only think we all are listening to the same thing.

1 comment:

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