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October 16, 2007

Radio, Live Transmission

I've been devoted to Joy Division since 1981 without ever being very interested in the lives of any of its members. Why did Ian Curtis kill himself? It never seemed that important to find out. Even after reading the section on the band in Simon Reynold's Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, none of it took. It's an excellent book, but I don't remember a thing from it about Joy Division.

It's probably inevitable that such a legendary suicide would end up as part of the "aura" of the music -- to borrow and mangle that term. But it's also a distraction. The records themselves would be plenty atmospheric even without knowing that.

Well, now I take it all back.

A biopic called Control has been released, showing only in New York at present, as far as I know; and it's driving me to distraction that I can't go right out and see it.

Here's a video clip someone has put together, mixing footage from Control (b&w) with performance video from 1979:

Pretty remarkable -- I've ended up watching this several times now. The original BBC video (including a performance of "Transmission" that's better than the studio version) is here.

Posted by smclemee at October 16, 2007 11:54 AM


I saw Control this past weekend, and it's as good as it looks. It manages not to be romantic or mythologizing about either Joy Division in general or Curtis in particular. Plus, it's visually stunning and Samantha Morton is terrific.

I was amazed to discover that the songs in the movie are actually played by the actors, none of whom (except the guy playing Curtis) had much in the way of band experience. They nail the look and the sound pretty much spot on.

Posted by: Peter at October 16, 2007 2:52 PM

Yeah, I heard a clip of them during a radio story about the film and would have assumed it was a bootleg from some performance by the real band.

Very glad you think it works as a film. I've been so impressed by the trailer (also available on YouTube) and by this mash-up that it's hard not to worry about getting my hopes up too much.

Posted by: Scott McLemee at October 16, 2007 2:59 PM

Visually it is one of the most stunning movies I've ever seen. Story wise it is alright, but it's kind of a rock cliche; hard to tell if that's just reality. Still, well worth seeing.

Posted by: Anthony Paul Smith at October 16, 2007 6:11 PM

CONTROL opens at the Kendall Sq Cinema in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 26th -- I am counting the days...

Posted by: George at October 18, 2007 10:11 AM

E Street Cinema will run Control for one week, beginning November 2.

Posted by: Shane Taylor at October 19, 2007 10:21 AM

Thanks very much for that information. We've been scanning the newspaper in hopes of finding out when it would get here.

I will be counting the days. Don't remember the last time I looked forward to a movie as much as this.

E Street almost makes up for the implosion of the art-house market in DC over the past decade or so.

Posted by: Scott McLemee at October 19, 2007 10:31 AM