Our Toronto Film Fest report:
While we were greatly anticipating the Joy Division film "Control" and have much admiration for the photographic work of director Anton Corbijn, his directorial debut was nothing short of disappointment.
No disrespect to Ian Curtis, but "Control" wasn't really a story worth telling - at least not the one in this script. Let's face it, if this band didn't happen to be famous and cherished, their story would be pretty unexceptional (again if we're going by this story).
The magic - if one can use that word - of Joy Division isn't remotely captured; there's little investment put into the characters early on to make you deeply care when it counts and the movie moves from scene to scene very matter-of-factly and rather prosaically. Obviously, many people already know this story and we found ourselves just sitting there as the plot elements unfolded free of any emotional depth or any great hook to draw you in.
Poor Corbijn is way too close to the material; too personally invested to dramatize the mundane and bromidic, too respectful to stir a mouse. The only time he tries pure exaggeration - a scene where Tony Wilson signs a record contract in blood - he falls straight into buffoonery. The director rolls out scenes like a straight-faced documentarian rather than an assured filmmaker and his unadorned direction, passable pace and timid delivery is flat and uneventful. It's a shame because the gargantuan Dutchmen was ideally the man for the job (having been the photographer that gave the band their iconic look in the '70s).
In short, the story was already told once and we liked it the first time when it was called, "24 Hour Party People." The ghost of that excellent film and its fantastic casting choices can't help but loom largely here; though kudos go to Joe Anderson [Peter Hook] and the exceptional scene-stealer Toby Kebbell (Joy Division's now-now deceased manager Rob Gretton). Though we're not even sure he quite matches Paddy Considine's take on Gretton, though he sure comes close.
Ok and the girl that plays Curtis' not-so-secret lover, Annik Honoré (Alexandra Maria Lara), is pretty solid too (not to mention utterly stunning).
Not terrible and certainly not fantastic "Control" was unfortunately mostly unremarkable and that in itself is the film's biggest travesty.
For film and Joy Division historians a brief glimpse of Werner Herzog's "Stroszek" passes by (a film about suicide that Curtis allegedly had on the telly before he took his life) and a rather telegraphed shot of Iggy Pop's The Idiot. Control debuts at New York's Film Forum on Oct 10 and then goes into wide release a few weeks later. Also of note, if New Order did compose new music for this thing [ed. which they did three new songs], they're barely discernible in the film and maybe on screen for seconds at a time.
There you have it. Thumbs down for "Control." Too bad. Don't believe the hype.
Meanwhile, the tastemaking archivists at Rhino are cashing in on all the Joy Division buzz and re-releasing their first three discs with lots of live bells and whistles.
Our Toronto Film Fest report: