Monday, November 5, 2007

Ian Curtis: Tragic Figure or Self-Absorbed Twat? A Review of Control


I'd heard about Anton Corbijn's movie Control a couple of years ago, when production was just beginning. As a big fan of Joy Division since I was in diapers, I was excited. No, thrilled is more the word.

So Maise and I, following a fabulous dinner at Carnivale, headed to the Music Box Theater, which my mom referred to as a "rat-infested shithole." And yeah, she was kind of right, but for whatever reason, it was the only theater in Chicago to be showing this movie. But I didn't care about the screen that was approximately the size of my TV or the less-than-comfortable seats because after two years of waiting, here was the tragic story of one of the most beloved bands of my youth. I was psyched.

Maybe too psyched. Honestly, after all that anticipation, I was waiting to be blown away by Ian Curtis's tragic story. But in reality, for the entire two hours, I was pretty bored. The movie, despite its fantastic JD soundtrack, plods along so slowly that at some points, I nearly dozed off. Ninety percent of this movie is Ian being morose: he glumly watches TV; he glumly smokes a cigarette; he glumly bounces from his wife to his mistress and back again. The moments of levity are so few and far between that this whole movie was just one big downer.

Samantha Morton's and Sam Riley's performances are stellar as Deborah and Ian, but the rest of the actors aren't really given much to work with. In fact, the rest of the characters are largely nonexistent. Even Annik Honore's role is rather thinly drawn seeing as she was the source of such turmoil in Ian's life.

Ian's struggles with epilepsy also seem like an afterthought. They are present, but that part of his life takes a backseat to the love triangle he created with Deborah and Annik. This thoroughly surprised me since it's my understanding that his condition was one of the major contributing factors to his suicide.

But my biggest gripe about this movie? Ian is completely unlikeable throughout most of it. When he starts out dating Deborah behind his best friend's back, eventually stealing her away, all I could think was, "That's an asshole thing to do!" Which is is how I felt about most of his subsequent actions. He treats Deborah poorly, expecting her to support his sorry, unemployed ass both emotionally and financially right after giving birth to their daughter. And he expects all of this while he trots through Europe dicking around with Annik. There are some rather touching moments when you think to yourself, "Aww...the poor guy," but there are so few of those moments that I left the movie thinking far less of him than I had previously. I didn't even find it that upsetting when he does eventually kill himself. In fact, I kind of felt relieved for Deborah, who could finally move on with her life.

All in all, the movie paints Ian as a self-absorbed, selfish, depressing bloke who just happened to create some fantastic, highly influential music. Whether this is an accurate portrayal of his life, of course we'll never really know for sure. I realize that Deborah's autobiography Touching from a Distance was the source material for the movie, so of course her point of view is treated most sympathetically. But after watching this, my love for Ian has been torn apart just a little.


48 comments:

Gabriel said...

Hey, retard! Guess what? THIS EXACT REASON IS WHY THE MOVIE IS GOOD.

Maybe you were looking for some romanticized, rose-colored love fest that made you pine for the tragic loss of Mr. Curtis. I realize it may have come as a shock to you that a guy who fucking COMMITTED SUICIDE was self-obsessed and narcissistic. Because offing yourself and leaving behind your wife and daughter is so wonderful and tragic, right?

Jesus christ. Go watch FRED CLAUS when it comes out. That sounds like it would be more of your cup of tea. Or maybe they'll do a Special Edition of CONTROL where Ian doesn't kill himself, lives happily ever after, and ends up joining New Order for a triumphant reunion tour while his wife and mistress make friends!

LAME.

maise said...

Oh Gabriel, don't be a hysterical cunt. Although I liked the movie, I too feel that it was slow in parts, and I would have liked a better idea as to why he fell madly in love with Annik (beyond her hotness).

But I did like the film for its unsparing, unsympathetic portrayal. Ian's tragedy was that he was too young for everything going on his life at that point, and the meds he was on probably didn't make him the clearest thinker. At the same time, he actively made choices that could only be characterized as completely twat-like.

I had a weird sensation watching this film, given that I have basically lived certain unpleasant scenes word for word, so it was kind of like watching my own life on screen but being rather detached from it at the same time, and I was totally enthralled at the same time that I wanted to flee the theater.

Gabriel said...

Honestly, if you need to know why he fell in "love" with Annik, then you must know next to NOTHING about the way the male brain operates.

Grass is greener? Trappings of fame? Dumpy wife/real life not as intriguing as romanticized journalist that strokes your ego?

I mean, seriously. You really didn't get that?

Ro said...

Yeah, Gabriel, I think we all got that. But it doesn't make it interesting either.

Ro said...

The movie sucked because it was slow and boring and because all we get is Ian being an asshole, and not even in an interesting way.

maise said...

You know, maybe it is a male vs. female thing. I mean, I think mainly I was hoping that there would be more substance to the depiction of his relationship with Annik beyond some meaningful glances. Or that insipid interview: "What is beauty to you?" I mean, do guys REALLY fall for that crap? REALLY?

Ro said...

It seems to depend on how hot the interviewer is....

Ro said...

Oh, and Gabriel? Maybe I will go see Fred Claus. It couldn't be any less interesting than watching Ian smoking a fag for 20 minutes whilst weeping like a little girl because he can't keep his dick in his pants.

Gabriel said...

Been cheated on much, Ro?

Ro said...

And if I have? Does that somehow legitamize him treating his wife and daughter poorly so that he could boink a hot chick?

Iris said...

Well this was going to be my Saturday entertainment while Maise is at work next weekend since I know it will never make it here but now I'm not so sure.

See it or don't see it. Help me out people.

maise said...

Well, I think for all of us who have played the role of Deborah Curtis in our lives, the film serves the purpose of exposing exactly how ugly and selfish that behavior is.

maise said...

Well, I think it's a good movie and worth seeing, but it's certainly not a feel-good experience...

Ro said...

You know what, Iris? I'll pick you up and we can go see Fred Claus.

Gabriel said...

ro said:
And if I have? Does that somehow legitamize him treating his wife and daughter poorly so that he could boink a hot chick?


No, but nobody's legitimizing his behavior either. But it does explain your Can't See the Forest For The Trees take on the movie.

Gabriel said...

The movie is great, but its not touchy-feelie happy, and if it had been, it would have been a big bunch of bullshit.

It's honest, truthful, compelling, and most of all -- human.

If you want that, see it. If you want escapist crap, see FRED CLAUSE.

Ro said...

You know why this movie WASN'T compelling? Because there was nothing likeable about Ian. His life was tragic, but I felt NOTHING for him by the end of this movie, which is saying a lot seeing as he produced some of my favorite music ever. You get brief snippets of a genuinely "nice" guy, especially when he's working at the employment exchane, but instead of doing more with that, instead of making me feel something more for him than contempt, they present all of his douchebaggery in all of its glory. I felt no sense of loss upon his death, and that for me is the saddest thing about this movie.

I understand his being torn between two women; his being disillusioned with his romanticized vision of rock stardom contrasted against the harsh realities of the music industry; his inability to cope effectively with his medical problems. What I don't understand is why we should care about this, as it's presented in this movie.

maise said...

Today's edition of Places Parallel is brought to you by FRED CLAUSE. Coming soon!

Gabriel said...

Curtis' myopic and self-obsessed actions, as depicted in the film, should be resonant for anybody that has ever loved too early, loved too hard, thought they were "loving like a romantic", or any of the other common mistakes we all make when confronted with the letters L-O-V-E while in our late teens and early 20's.

The movie requires you bring a little bit of yourself to the table to understand, just as Joy Division's music does. They weren't a literal band, and this isn't a literal movie.

Perhaps you would enjoy PEARL HARBOR.

Danny Angel said...

Gabriel is right. You may not LIKE the way he is portrayed but the "man with faults torn between two women" is compelling. You may not like him in real life - but it makes for a compelling character study.

Ro said...

Gabriel, weren't you just criticizing me for bringing too much of myself to the movie? Make up your mind, bitch.

And Danny...how is the "man with faults torn between two women" compelling in this film? You get no sense of why he loves Annik other than the fact that she's hot. You see so little interaction of Ian with his bandmates that they may as well have been nonexistent. You barely see any of his struggles with his epilepsy, other than him staring morosely at the myriad of drugs he's given.

My point is, this movie could have been a great Shakespearean tragedy about a tragic genius who was too young to handle what was going on in his life, and instead, it was two hours of someone watching cartoons and crying.

Danny Angel said...

Ro

I think it is compelling in this film because Annik is not the "reason" he cheats... he is the reason. He is weak, he has faults. It isn't about the band or laying on the well-known bits about him heavy-handedly. The movie wasn't trying to be a "great Shakespearean tragedy about a tragic genius who was too young to handle what was going on in his life" it was about a human being who because of his weakness succumbs to a situation and ultimately gives up on himself. The band never lent itself to epic tale-telling - they were a small band and he was just a fucked up guy and the film captured that.

Gabriel said...

Bringing yourself so something can resonante, and projecting your baggage are two different things, RoRo.

And secondly, stop bitching that the movie wasn't what you fucking HOPED IT WAS GOING TO BE. Jesus Christ. Did you bitch at the end of SCHINDLER'S LIST because it could've been a wonderful pro-Nazi story, but they just missed a big opportunity, too?

Thirdly, as somebody who is epileptic themselves, the movie nailed everything about it, including the petit mal seizures growing up, the quiet self doubt, and the feeling of lack of control. Don't talk shit about things you don't understand.

Fourthly -- the movie WASN'T CUNTING ABOUT JOY DIVISION, you twat -- it was about Ian Curtis. Of course there was not much about his bandmates, because his entire world revolved around him. GET IT? Sorta fits with the whole point of the goddamned movie, doesn't it?

FUCK YOU, RETARD.

Ro said...

Whatever, fucktard. Who's projecting their baggage now? Last time I checked, this movie was about Ian, not Gabriel. And Ian was a genius. You are not.

And you know what? I seem to remember a certain someone being so HIGHLY offended that a certain "Year Zero" album didn't live up to what he expected. But perhaps things only fail miserably if they don't live up to YOUR expectations.

Gabriel, suck my left one. My right one's reserved for people I like.

Ro said...

And for the record, I wasn't looking for a movie about Joy Division. But I was looking for his relationship with his bandmates to be more than a 2-minute discussion about whether it's acceptable to have the word "cocks" in a band's name.

Gabriel said...

Projecting which baggage? My baggage where I wish people would post reviews that actually made sense or possessed some sort of meaningful content? That old "Hates Postings With Titles such as 'Tragic Figure or Self-Aborbed Twat' When The Reviewer Is Too Ignorant And/Or Blinded To Understand that Tragic Figure AND Self-Absorbed Twat Is The Basis Of The Tale baggage?

If so, then i guess so.

Not really sure where your confused "expectations" metaphor was going, RoRo, as I certainly expected one thing from CONTROL (probably what you're whining about not getting, to be frnak), and instead got something much different -- and much better.

And lest we need to revisit this again: YEAR ZERO is a weak album, and is therefore disappointing.

CONTROL is a great compelling film, and you are unable to see that, which means you are retarded.

Any other questions, Corky?

Ro said...

And what wasn't meaningful about my review? The fact that I've DARED to disagree with The Father of All Self-Absorbed Twats? Seriously, dude? Get over yourself.

Gabriel said...

Gee, where to start.

It makes no sense. You complain that you were bored because 90% of the movie is "Ian being morose: he glumly watches TV; he glumly smokes a cigarette; he glumly bounces from his wife to his mistress and back again." Then in the very next paragraph you cite Sam Riley's (Ian Curtis) performance as being "stellar".

So, he was stellar at boring you? Or did you mean something else? Or were you saying he was stellar because that seemed like proper reviewspeak that you've heard elsewhere? Confusing, contradictory, and BULLSHIT reviewing.

"Ian's struggles with epilepsy also seem like an afterthought."
Strange, as they were woven throughout the film from the moment in his gradeschool class where he has a petit mal seizure and "blanks out".

They are present, but that part of his life takes a backseat to the love triangle he created with Deborah and Annik.
Well given that its a movie about love, and not epilepsy itself, I guess this is a bad thing... how exactly?

This thoroughly surprised me since it's my understanding that his condition was one of the major contributing factors to his suicide.
Oh, okay, so once again -- YOU EXPECTED ONE THING -- and got another -- and now you're complaining. You're right; SUPER meaningful there. Great stuff.

And then your two paragraphs on how Ian is "not likeable". Honestly, if you don't get how fucking stupid that is, Best Buy called -- they have a copy of TRANSFORMERS with your name on it.

Gabriel said...

And I'll make a deal with you -- I'll get over myself when you post a meaningful, thought-out critique of CONTROL.

So, like, NEVER.

Danny Angel said...

Oh SHIT! Gabriel just blew it up!

maise said...

Ugh, why does shit always have to blow up when I have stupid bullshit to do at work? Meh.

Danny Angel said...

Oh Shit! Maise is busy at work!

Ro said...

1) Criticizing how a character is written is quite a different thing than criticizing how the actor handles what he's given. Sam Riley did well with what he was given, and what he was given was BORING. My problem isn't with the actors, it's with the shitty writing in the movie itself.

2) And I agree, this wasn't a movie about epilepsy. But this wasn't a movie about "love" either, dipshit. It was a movie about depression. And you know what? I left the theater pretty fucking depressed because I'd wasted $10 and two hours of my life. So in that respect, I guess it was a success.

3) What point do you think you're making about my expectations going into it? I was expecting to see a glimpse of the man who Deborah Curtis writes so lovingly about in "Touching From a Distance". A man who was humorous yet gloomy, loving yet self-absorbed, fatalistic and oddly prophetic. Instead, there's nothing humanizing about this characterizaton of him...nothing that made me say the world lost a lot more than a great musician with Ian's death. It's why I harp on the fact that this movie takes away all of his likeable qualities, all of those moments in the book that made his life tragic and heartbreaking. Instead, this movie turns him into a blubbering mess who treats people badly just because he can. So yeah, in that respect, I got a lot less than I was expecting. They didn't do Ian or the book justice. Why is there anything wrong in saying that?

Ro said...

I think LD Beghtol's review of the movie sums it up best:

"Control is like a wake where the guests forgot to bring the booze and, for the most part, have nothing very nice or even particularly interesting to say about the deceased. Curtis was young, fucked-up, given to petty cruelties, and—by his own estimation—doomed. After seeing this banal flick, who cares?"

Gabriel said...

The review you just quoted would probably be used to dismiss Joy Division's music just as easily. But then again, if you understood that, you'd probably understand CONTROL.

Somebody can't deliver a "stellar" performance doing nothing, or one single repetitive thing, which is what you infer. Being boring and morose is one note, easy, and will never constitute a "stellar" performance, so there was either more to Ian and his character than you care to admit, or your comment about Riley's acting is bullshit. Which is it?

If you think this was a movie about depression, you are retarded, plain and simple. If after two hours, I realized I was retarded like you are, I would be depressed too, so I understand your sadness here.

I don't harp about your expectations -- I illuminate. And your romantic yearnings for "A man who was humorous yet gloomy, loving yet self-absorbed, fatalistic and oddly prophetic" prove how right I am here.

You wanted to see a romanticized version of Curtis to match the picture you have in your head. The fact that the movie made him seem like the self-absorbed douche he likely was -- and we all are at that age -- flams with this pre-existing notion, and therefore you HATE the movie because it ruins the fantasy in your head.

Sorta like how people around here (and formerly on WTC) wanted to think Trent Reznor is this altruistic noble dude, and would freak out when it would become clear how much of an everyday, fratboy, normal "Guy" he really is.

Like ALL men are in differing degrees.

For you to lambast the movie because it pops your fantasy balloon is not only misinformed, it does a disservice to the filmmakers -- who have made an incredibly powerful and resonant picture -- but also to the memory of Curtis. His being an epic noble tale of loss would be to ignore the very humanity and vulnerability that makes Joy Division so powerful. It is that same humanity and vulnerability that doesn't exist in New Order; Curtis was that element.

A glossy fallen angel type portrait would be a lie. It's what you wanted? Fine. But it would have been bullshit.

What we got instead was powerful truth. So for your own sake, GET OVER YOUR BAGGAGE. Who knows what other great things you're missing out on.

I bet you hated TITANIC, too.

Ro said...

As a matter of fact, I did. And just like in Control, I couldn't wait for them to die.

Gabriel said...

Smart move there to not attempt to counter my Post Of Facts.

The retard is learning.

pokeydots said...

Gabriel is back with a vengeance and I like it...

I thought the film was too predictable and had nothing new to tell/show. Besides the epilepsy slant, hasn't this story been told over and over. We have watched this same story in the media with the endless rockers, actors, etc. Enough. As the book aptly describes - I'm amusing myself (ourselves)to death! ugh.

Gabriel said...

Seriously, pokeydots! I mean, the guy DIES at the end! Like, I totally saw that one coming.

Iris said...

Oh way to go and ruin the ending for me guys! No sense in watching it now. Although if it caused this much controversy between Ro and Gabriel it might still be worth it just to see what they're blathering on about.

And sorry if this offends anyone but Gabriel...that line about Schindler's List...I literally laughed out loud.

JR said...

You know what the movie had to show/tell?

That everyone was fooled into thinking that Ian Curtis was better/smarter/more talented/had bigger impact than he really was/did because he killed himself and that clouded everyone's interpretation.

That said, does that mean I'm not booking it in my theatre?

No.

Why? Because all you idiots are forgetting there is MORE TO A FILM than storyline--have any of you heard of DIRECTION? Corbijn RULES.

[Oh, and Gabriel? I was thinking that instead of calling her RoRo, you could try Rotard. But then I almost did a spit take when you dropped the Life Goes On reference. Hell to the yeah.]

Danny Angel said...

They need to do a GG Allin biopic - now that's the real rock n roll shit, bitch-whores.

Iris said...

Sounds like a real peachy guy.

maise said...

A GG Allin biopic sounds like one of those movies I'd read about but never in a million years watch.

maise said...

Meanwhile, here is a really interesting article about the real Natalie Curtis (Ian's young daughter) hanging out on the set of "Control."

Gabriel said...

JR, you are so divine. RoTard is SOOOOOO in effect now.

In other news, Sam Raimi will be directing the Allin pic, where he will adapt his trademark Evil Dead POV camera tricks into the "Semen Cam".

maise said...

JR, you are so divine.

Oh barf.

JR said...

Don't hate me because I'm divine.