Can we find a black-and-white movie about a skinny, depressive British rock star who kills himself that is, well, we wouldn't reach for uplifting, but maybe philosophically enlightening? Yes, we can, and, no, we are not currently chain-smoking, dressed in black and listening to Morrissey.
Watching "Control," a grim, spare account of the quick success and even quicker suicide of Ian Curtis, the frontman and songwriter for late-1970s post-punk band Joy Division, we contemplate all that humankind strives for: success, happiness, love. And as Curtis (an uncannily believable Sam Riley) reaches for, and destroys, all of those desirable states in his own life we realize what precious commodities they are.
Ultimately, we are not watching just another rock-and-roll rise-and-fall saga but a tragedy of a less vaunted nature: a young man who couldn't negotiate the straits of real life. (He hanged himself in May 1980, on the eve of his first American tour.) Curtis may have seemed on the cusp of certain success. But he was torn between two women: his wife, Deborah (played with affecting vulnerability by Samantha Morton), and a Belgian rock journalist, Annik Honore (Alexandra Maria Lara). He also suffered from epilepsy and the side effects of the medication he used, was disillusioned by the exigencies of success and convinced that his music was no longer fun.
That is the way of all tragedy, dramatic or real life: the great potential squandered through human weakness. And even though Curtis is hopelessly dysfunctional, photographer-turned-filmmaker Anton Corbijn makes us achingly aware of the singer's talent, the haunting poetry of his songs and how, living in the gloomy culture he did, his passing was virtually inevitable.
-- Desson Thomson (Nov. 2, 2007)
Contains profanity, sexuality and drug use.