originally published September 9, 2007Control is an authentic-feeling biopic about the late Ian Curtis, the epileptic front man for Joy Division who committed suicide--though a revisionist theory absurdly contends that he "accidentally" hung himself from the clothesline in his Manchester flat--in 1979 at the age of 23. Spoiler. Directed by music-video auteur Anton Corbijn and objectively lensed in black-and-white and 'scope by Martin Ruhe, the film overcomes the central miscasting of Samantha Morton as Ian's wife Deborah (though she would've nailed this role in her Morvern Callar days, she's far too long in the tooth for it now) with the near-perfect casting of Sam Riley as Curtis, Craig Parkinson as Tony Wilson, and Alexandra Maria Lara as Annik Honoré, a.k.a. The Other Woman. (Morton's incongruous star-power is easily explained by the basis for Control's screenplay: Deborah Curtis' own memoir Touching from a Distance.) The film is admirably not a hagiography while engendering empathy for a gifted asshole more successfully than, say, Man on the Moon, and the song recreations are surprisingly persuasive, although I was a bit disappointed with how literalmindedly the music is applied at times.
Anyway, I liked it and thought it mostly deserving of its Cannes honours, but towards the end of the film, I found myself growing increasingly restless: instead of dreading Ian's fate, I became impatient with any scene I knew wouldn't end with the money shot. Rather than give the Brothers Weinstein ammunition to butcher another film, though, I'm more apt to blame the anti-piracy measures that have been put into effect for this year's Toronto International Film Festival. Throughout the film, some skinny, anime-looking dork attired in a security uniform that was sliding off his shoulders paced the aisle next to me, stopping occasionally to put a pair of infrared specs to his eyes and pivot his head back and forth, Terminator-style. Call me a prima donna, but when a movie is quiet and intense, as Control most certainly is, there's just something distracting about a guy incessantly goose-stepping in your periphery. The straw that broke the camel's back for me was when he leaned against the screen, spilling some of the projected image onto his smug expression. I kept hoping someone with a little influence would speak up (Dave Poland was seated in my vicinity) until finally I tried staring down the twerp myself. Alas, he wielded those night-vision goggles like a talisman, using them to shield himself from direct eye contact. Eventually I hotfooted it to the other side of the theatre--the Nazi stationed there was much less obtrusive, seemingly conscientious of Control's fragile tone.
Now, I'm not gonna get all self-righteous about being monitored during these press & industry screenings, even though I think they're very obviously going after the wrong people. Everybody knows that the Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's factory comes with some caveats. But at least properly train this Gestapo to blend into the furniture and conceal their contempt for the whole charade, because it's the films--not the spectators--that ultimately pay the price.
My TIFF So Far:
Just Buried *1/2
Emotional Arithmetic **
King of the Hill ***1/2
Love Songs *
A Promise to the Dead **1/2
Lust, Caution ***
Mother of Tears: The Third Mother ***1/2