Control & r & & r & by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & an Curtis was the kind of pop figure cults get built around. He was young, good-looking, brooding, self-destructive and painfully articulate even as he expressed how heartbreaking it was to be young, good-looking, brooding, self-destructive and articulate. He kept most everything to himself, but those parts he chose to reveal in music were damn near the most tragic, beautiful things you ever heard.
When Curtis hung himself in his flat at age 23, it represented the death of a promising band -- giant in England, big on the Continent, set to take America by tour mere days later. It was also the birth of a legend. There was so much genius in Joy Division's three meager recordings, what more could have been accomplished if Curtis had just gotten his shit together? On the other hand, what would he have written about if not isolation, depression, and the annoyances of monogamy?
It's a story like so many others in pop music, and Control, the film that seeks to tell it, doesn't add any new wrinkles to the troubled-young-genius-artist films that abound.
Directed by Joy Division collaborator Antoan Corbijn and based on the memoir of Curtis' wife, it has a lot of good music and an equal amount of biography, but scant insight. That's 'cause, being the raving misanthrope that so many geniuses are, Curtis didn't really talk to his wife -- as the film makes clear -- or to his collaborators. He spoke most fluently through his art, which is just as visceral and heart-rending before watching Control as it is after.
One thing the film did do for me is flavor Ian Curtis' poetry with his life, taking his art from a bare-walled studio in my imagination and transplanting it to a dimly lit working-class flat.
Now that I know how he lived, I'm connecting more deeply with Curtis' music. It would have been nice to connect with the film as well, but (to co-opt Meatloaf), one out of two ain't bad. (Rated R)