The Tripwire has anxiously anticipated Anton Corbijn's portrayal of Joy Division and its scourged front man, Ian Curtis. We finally got our first look in Los Angeles this week and can now say that it's the defining scripted feature film of the post-punk era. For readers of this page, it just may be your Citizen Cane.
As a young man, Corbijn traveled from his native Holland to England to be closer to the emerging punk scene. That journey brought some of the most famous rock portraits ever taken. And, Control, like one of Corbijn's meticulous portraits, conveys so much by saying so little. The film sheds itself (of most) of the trappings of the standard rock biopic. There are, of course, some obligatory expository moments -- "let's get married, Deb", "let's have a baby, Ian" but they set the tone for Curtis's struggle and his ultimate downfall. What remains is a portrayal of how one band shaped the future of rock music for decades to come.
At its core, this is a movie about a man's struggling with his demons - epilepsy, depression, failure as husband and father. But those demons are poured into the dark and brilliant music. The cast, who insisted playing live on camera - no easy task, performs much of the music. That cast is lead by Sam Riley who seamlessly channels Curtis. Working with very little video of Curtis to research, Riley nails Curtis' near spastic movements on stage. Watching his eyes roll into the back of their sockets leaves you on the edge of your seat, anticipating a fit with every jerk.
Corbijn's first feature film delivers a poignant, disturbing and, at times, even hilarious portrait of a band who knew they were on their way to the top, but never reached their final destination.