Addressing the ever-shrinking credibility of rock journalism since 2007. With a sasquatch.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Off The Shelf: Harvey Weinstein to America: "We are all out of fashionable corpses."

Control (2008)
Sam Riley as Ian Curtis in a script with more in common with Dawson's Creek than Joy Division.

Recently, I fled in fear from my own home theater when I screened Control (2007), the Joy Division biopic from 80's rock 'n roll photographer Anton Corbijn. I proceeded to hide in my bedroom for an hour while the movie churned on in my living room, featuring a series of vacant eyed actors going blankly through the motions. It was clear to me that these glassy eyed robots had not only capsized a brilliant story - but were re-writing a story of alienation and inspiration into something lifeless.

The band is depicted as a group of meaningless angst-ridden youths without any real problems unless combating the evil injustice of boredom counts. In the second act, singer Ian Curtis develops epilepsy and depression that would kill him at 23 in 1980. It was the only thing that happens in the movie. The whole film was like the Janis Joplin story without a soul. This must be the final sign that rock 'n roll is officially out of martyrs to be exhumed and aggrandized - paving the way for another Biggie Smalls biopic this time featuring Jamie Fox in a Big Mama style fat suit. The dubious credit for the script goes to Matt Greenhalgh who adapted this improbably award-winning screenplay based on the book by Ian's wife, Deborah Curtis.

It occured to me (while hiding from this movie) that Ravi Shankar, when faced with a sea of new and not very dedicated students, described (on the Dick Cavett show in August of 1971) that his new pupils "had everything...wanting for nothing but willing to throw it all away on whim...". This seemed to be the core of the movie, where superficial smarm: "No offense, I call everyone a 'daft cunt'.", says the band's new manager by way of introduction to the old manager, marginal dialogue: "Let's have a baby." says Ian."OK" says Deborah - CUT SCENE, and no commitment to character: the frantic gestures and low-range vocals of the real Ian Curtis versus actor Sam Reilly's self conscious imitation. That these weak pretenses are substituted for a story - that's an insult to the memory of a good band and a real testament to Hollywood's ability to not get the basics even close to right.

Ian Curtis from Joy Division
The key differences between Ian Curtis and the actor who played him? About 80 points of IQ and a troubled and fiery inspiration that cannot be easily imitated.

Control displays no attention to storycraft at all. No compelling narrative. No directors sense of How and Why. It was like a visual timeline about jellyfish written in Latin. The movie was a weird, artificial ride at the mall with a bummer at the end. The film captured none of the band's driving ferocity that was held in loose check by an emotional distance sustained by the real life Ian Curtis.

If Hollywood labodomized Train Spotting (1996) then had a very average bar band cover Joy Division performances - you would have this film.

I've seen Manos, Hands of Fate at least 11 times and this movie had me on my knees after less than a full hour. I was cowering in my bedroom praying to non-existent DVD gods for release. I barely ever take a dump on this crap (because it's everywhere) but be warned - this movie is destined to be buried deep in the Sonoma desert with the Indiana Jones sequel, the Rock's acting career and the head of Jar Jar Binks.

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