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Joy Division

  • Film
  • 5 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars
What with ‘24 Hour Party People’, ‘Control’ and Chris Rodley’s BBC4 Factory Records survey, you might think the story of England’s most influential post-punk band was already covered. But you’d be wrong. Although the three surviving members tell it their way, this is not your usual cut-and-paste rock-doc but a visionary piece of filmmaking in its own right, shaped around an insightful muso-socio-geography. Joy Division’s songs were a product of vocalist-lyricist Ian Curtis refracting JG Ballardian poetics through his own neurological imbalance and emotional fragility.

Courtesy of revealing testimonies and priceless live footage, we see how this combined with his band’s Pistols-inspired DIY rebellion and Manchester’s post-industrial decay in the enduring sonic monuments of the albums ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’. Gee’s camera lingers on the sites where it happened (including Islington’s former Britannia Row Studios), many of them now bearing scant traces of their contribution to history. The effect is a visual dialogue between ephemerality and permanence, utterly germane to an outfit whose brief tenure catalysed Manchester’s  regeneration.

Despite the presence of sundry egghead popsters (including the late Tony Wilson and I-was-there critic Paul Morley), it’s all done with an admirable lack of pretension. There is a certain poise in its handling of the still-raw subject of Curtis’s suicide, with the suggestion that those around him, still only kids, didn’t have the maturity to deal with his downward spiral. Astute, complete, genuinely loving, it’s the film for which fans have waited decades. For everyone else, it’s a definitive celluloid model of how to approach music, and of memory’s galvanising interdependence.
Written by Trevor Johnston

Release Details

  • Rated:15
  • Release date:Friday 2 May 2008
  • Duration:100 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Grant Gee
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