For those tired of the bombastic formula of Hollywood musical biopics, the docudrama Control provides an antidote. In fact, director Anton Corbijn originally intended to keep the music entirely offscreen in telling the tragic story of post-punk rocker Ian Curtis. Screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh changed his mind with a script that delicately places Curtis' songs and lyrics to demonstrate how clearly they emerged from his life experience. It was a short life, ending when Curtis was only 23, but an eventful one.
In a commendably naturalistic performance, Sam Riley portrays Curtis as a man who consistently grabbed what he wanted only to discover he'd bought himself unexpected difficulties. In the film's early scenes, Curtis marries Deborah Woodruff (a transcendent Samantha Morton)—when both are still in their teens. "You're mine, irretrievably," he tells her. But as soon as he owns her, his interest in her slackens and he turns his attention to his next dream: fronting a rock band. The opportunity drops in his lap when Peter Hook (Joe Anderson of Across the Universe) and Bernard Sumner (James Anthony Pearson) mention they're looking for a vocalist. Joined by drummer Stephen Morris (Harry Treadaway), they become the punk band Warsaw and, once they find their sound, the breakthrough modern rock attraction of the '70s: Joy Division.
With the talented actors performing the music, Corbijn nails the musical scenes, but his interest lies in Curtis's troubled trajectory. A left-field epilepsy diagnosis plagues him, as does his unwillingness to decide between Deborah and the journalist/groupie who becomes his lover on the side: Annik Honore (Alexandra Maria Lara). Corbijn and Greenhalgh waste no time judging or making excuses for Curtis; he can be a right bastard. But by crafting a serious-minded character study, the filmmakers bring us closer to understanding the enigmatic artist's inspiration and desperation: a life that spun out of control.
The Miriam Collection (The Weinsteins' answer to The Criterion Collection) presents Control in a jim-dandy special edition. A flawless black-and-white transfer and Dolby surround-sound track present the film in optimal DVD fashion. One can also watch the film with a commentary track by director Anton Corbijn.
If you're not up for that time investment, check out "In Control: A Conversation with Anton Corbijn" (12:54)—it hits the highlights, including his own experience meeting and photographing Joy Division, the choice to shoot in black and white, casting, and the live music aspect of the production. "The Making of Control" (23:19) adds the perspectives of Korda Marshall of Warner Records, screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh, James Anthony Pearson, Harry Treadaway, Joe Anderson, and Sam Riley.
Extended Live Concert Performances from the Film (9:11 with "Play All" option) include "Transmission" (4:00), "Leaders of Men" (2:51), and "Candidate" (2:22). Also included are three Music Videos: "Transmission" (3:23), performed by Joy Division in 1979 on the BBC's Something Else; "Atmosphere" (4:34), a 1988 Joy Division clip directed by Corbijn; and "Shadowplay" (4:15), a 2007 video of the Killers' cover.
There's a Still Gallery and a section of Promotional Materials, including two Theatrical Trailers (3:07) and ads for the soundtrack, In Control—A Diary, Touching from a Distance, Joy Division: Remastered, and The Epilepsy Foundation.The disc's previews include Control, I'm Not There, Berlin, and Pete Seeger: The Power of Song.
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