Did Anton Corbijn shoot his load with his early work for Propaganda, David Sylvian, Echo and the Bunneymen, and Depeche Mode? His triumph remains his totemic music video for Joy Division’s “Atmosphere”—a moody visual dirge, recorded eight years after Ian Curtis’s death, that anticipates the colliding rock and spiritual signs of the director’s “Heart-Shaped Box” clip (another requiem, only this one is foretelling). Control, Corbijn’s feature-length tribute to Curtis, is hypnotic and tragically fated—not unlike the Joy Division frontman’s famous, automatonic body-moving—though it finds the maverick photographer working in a less abstract mode. Corbijn’s images used to feel exasperated, evocative of creatures slinking their way out of sticky primordial sludge, but Control is told in the less insinuating manner of his U2 videos, like the original version of “One” and “Electrical Storm,” which featured Samantha Morton as a mermaid who transfixes a sullen Larry Mullen. At least Corbijn does not mythologize Curtis. Played with scorching ambiguity by Sam Riley, Curtis is seen as just another kid who likes to smoke in his room, lie around in his underwear, and scavenge for music that speaks to his adolescent disaffection; Morton is his young wife Deborah, who resigns herself to a life of hanging Ian’s underwear to dry after he starts fronting for Joy Division. Riley’s electric thesping during the film’s performance sequences gives credence to the idea that Curtis sunk deeper into oblivion every time he took to the stage. This young actor evokes Curtis’s final days as something of an exorcism, but Corbijn dubiously subscribes to the theory that Curtis’s regret over having married Deborah at such a young age was the only source of his possession. Praise for the film’s supposed kitchen-sink realism is perplexing given that Corbijn’s arrangement of people across his frame is infinitely more sensitive than his purview of Manchester at the time. Far from the fierce social consciousness of Mike Leigh, Control‘s images, if not its equally arresting performances, suggest a kitchen sink scrubbed clean.
- The Weinstein Company
- 121 min
- Anton Corbijn
- Anton Corbijn
- Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Alexandra Maria Lara, Joe Anderson, James Anthony Pearson, Harry Treadaway, Craig Parkinson, Toby Kebbell
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