Joy Division photographer revisits lead singer Ian Curtis’ life and death


on October 10, 2007 by Richard Mowe

Ian Curtis, lead singer with Joy Division, was only 23 when his rise to fame was tragically cut short. His brief spell in the spotlight was illuminated by an inimitable stage presence and a singular lyrical gift but also by agonizing private conflicts. His life and premature death provide fertile fodder for photographer Anton Corbijn, who took many of the definitive pictures of the band. Clearly this was a labor of love, even to the extent that the first-time filmmaker put up much of the financing out of his own pocket.

In Control Corbijn pays eloquent monochrome tribute to his hero, played in an amazing performance by Sam Riley as a demented soul in torment. Samantha Morton co-stars as Curtis' wife Debbie, on whose memoir Touching From a Distance the film is based. Naturally the ill-fated marriage is at the core of the film’s concerns, as are Curtis’ relationship with his girlfriend, his battle with epilepsy and the struggling road to success with his band.

Set in northern England in the late 1970s, a place of gray skies and grim prospects that produced a slew of original and innovative bands from the Buzzcocks to The Fall, Control features a score by New Order featuring original tracks from the ’70s by Wearsaw and Joy Division. Distinguished by its close connection to its subjects, coupled with unexpected flashes of irreverent humor, the film is as emotionally charged as the music it celebrates, which has been cited as an influence by everyone from Nine Inch Nails to U2.

Distributor: Weinstein
Cast: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Alexandra Maria Lara, Toby Kebbell, Joe Anderson and James Anthony Pearson
Director: Anton Corbijn
Screenwriter: Matt Greenhalgh
Producers: Anton Corbijn and Orian Williams
Genre: Musical biopic
Rating: Not yet rated
Running time: 122 min.
Release date: October 10, 2007 NY

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