|Index||7 reviews in total|
The only shortcoming perhaps of this documentary, is that it didn't
range too far beyond the context of the group and into the rest of the
music scene at the time. However that is a valid choice for the
film-maker. There was a lot of ground to cover, and fans will
appreciate the depth and attention paid to the music and live footage.
The film zeros in on the dynamic formation and growth of this seminal band, and particularly the increasing struggles of fated lead-singer, Ian Curtis. This was handled with surprising candor and integrity, no small accomplishment.
Those with only a basic knowledge of the role Joy Division played in the renewal of both the post-punk music scene and Manchester will find this an informative documentary. In addition to retrospectives by all remaining band members, a well-balanced range of contributers comment on everything from the scene, to music production and cover art design, to the cultural influences behind the band's unique style.
As a hardcore fan, I really enjoyed this Joy Division doco more than I
expected. Given that they were a shortlived band from a provincial
area, and had only achieved up-and-coming status at the time of their
demise, any documentary maker must face the challenge of the severe
lack of video footage of the band, and poor quality of what is
available, further exacerbated by the death, and hence unavailability
for interview, of some of the key players viz Curtis, Hannett &
Gretton. What's more, their active years coincided with Manchester's
large-scale redevelopment, hence their old haunts have long since been
torn down and replaced. Offset against this is the newfound openness of
the remaining players to giving honest and full answers in interviews.
They had previously been very reticent, particularly about Curtis whom
they professed to be sick of discussing as they tried to establish New
Order independent of the Joy Division legacy.
Overall, Gee rises to the challenge brilliantly. Gee's solution was to use extensive interviews with remaining members, brief interviews of many of the bit players, and waffling from some intellectuals explaining the band as being products of their time and place. This is combined with general video footage of 1970's Manchester, snippets of the limited available TV & gig footage, arty stills of the band taken mainly by Anton Corbijn with discussion of the photos' backgrounds, stills showing external shots of the band's old haunts then and now (the "Places that are no longer there" series), and the odd audio recording (e.g. Ian's hypnosis tapes, John Peel getting the speed wrong playing "Atmosphere") with oscilloscope visuals. The briefness of the video snippets used and the snappy editing successfully prevents the viewer noticing the paucity of the source material. Though we are constantly made aware that we are discussing a time and place and singer that are long gone, it all seems appropriate given that their music was mainly about loss.
Highlights included seeing the decaying 1970's Manchester which so inspired and suited their music. It was great to see pictures of the venues I'd only read about, even if they were old stills. There were few truly new facts for the Joy Division anorak, but it did give a sense of time and place and mood to known facts, and put faces and personalities to names. It was fascinating to hear Bernard's detailed account of Ian's first seizure, and the band's reactions to hearing of Ian's suicide first-hand. They are typical northerner artists, in that their brilliant, highly emotional music is created by remarkably dour people, and their sense of humour is cringeworthy. Though the band find their own anecdotes hilarious, Gee edited most of them into an incomprehensible mish-mash to hide how dull and unfunny they were. Lindsay Reade and Lesley Gilbert are remarkably beautiful for fiftysomethings, while the young Annik Honoré is much less pretty than her hold on Ian would suggest. She is overly melodramatic in interviews. Genesis C_Ornflakes is an even bigger freak now than in his Gristle days, and his stories lack credibility.
On the negative side, the intellectuals and their thesis-pushing grated. Joy Division were neither commenting on nor a product of an intellectual notion of "modernity". They were a bunch of rather ordinary Mancunians dreaming of a more exciting life than their dead-end jobs, who happened to be musical geniuses and with a singer/lyricist obsessed by darkly melodramatic bands like the Velvet Underground and the Doors. Nor were they anti-Thatcherites with revolutionary sympathies as the intellectuals claim. The Thatcher government took power in May 1979, whereas punk and post-punk emerged under the previous Labour government. As his wife and bandmates revealed elsewhere, Curtis himself was an ardent Tory with robustly "traditional" views on women and immigrants, while Stephen Morris has said he didn't vote in the first election for which he was old enough through lack of interest.
Rather than go on and on I watch this every day at the moment and have
done for about a month. If you like JD you will like the doco. I
usually put this on because I have only owned the album "Substance"
which is a collection of JD not an actual album. I put the doco on,
usually after and listen to it like music with all the stories and
performances. I love it. Their music was so modern it stands up to the
test of time. The doco itself is a well put together, linear story told
by surviving band members, all those people you remember from "24 Hour
Part People" and more. get it and watch it more than once because there
is a lot in there. Top marks.
This is a quite beautiful, intrinsic and simply made documentary about the band Joy Division, and about Manchester's youths during the late 1970s and early 1980s. As a few lads congregated, learned their instruments and put together their landmark mal de vivre with the help of Martin Hammett in the shape of "Unknown Pleasures", the life of the group is both professional and private. Ian Curtis' life is high- lighted, and still not dissected from the view-point of Deborah Curtis. Annik Honoré, Curtis' lover, is interviewed, as is a bunch of Manc people, e.g. the members of Joy Division, Richard Boon, Kevin Cummins, Paul Morley, Genesis P. Orridge. They're not there to be name-dropped, but all bring good info to the table. Very little of what's found in this documentary is filler. There is bootleg video included, a piece of a conversation between Curtis in hypnosis and Bernard Sumner, filmed scrawls from Rob Gretton's note-book. All in all, a quite precious film, laying bare the landscape that was the preface, basis and aftermath of Joy Division. A very good music documentary indeed.
Grant Gee's inventive and honest documentary about Joy Division is not
just a fine example of non-fiction film-making, but of film-making,
After the success of "Control", "Joy Division" has a new lease of interest behind it. It is, therefore, very good news to report that the film is not only interesting and informative, but also very effective. It is intelligent, though never ponderous. It is artistic, but never loses sight of its purpose.
The central interest of the film is not so much the eponymous band but the city of Manchester and the time and place which Joy Division found themselves in. Its focus here might tend to the ludicrous at points, but this is balanced by the human stories playing out in front of the northern backdrop.
There is very little complaint to be levelled at this film. It is not a masterpiece or extraordinary, but it is an excellent slice of cinema, knowledge and storytelling.
Brilliant. Probably the best rock documentary ever made. Detailed yet
fast paced. Very well researched, with no effort spared. Great
insightful and honest interviews with the three remaining members -
Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris - plus a host of other
key figures, such as Tony Wilson. Rare footage of Joy Division gigs.
Emotional, despite being a documentary. The importance of Joy Division and Manchester in rock music history is made apparent, and the sadness and wastefulness of Ian Curtis' death sensitively emphasised.
Also worth watching: "24-Hour Party People", a biopic on the Manchester music scene of the 70s and 80s, as seen through the eyes of Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records. Features the history of Joy Division, New Order and The Happy Mondays, amongst others. Superb movie. 10/10.
"Control", the story of Ian Curtis. Excellent. 9/10.
One of my five favorites films in 2007 was Control, Anton Corbijn's
beautifully bleak black and white biopic of Ian Curtis and Joy
Division. Aside from the music, what I loved about the film was its
kitchen sink realism and incredible attention to detail. Following the
trend, last night I watched Grant Gee's documentary Joy Division about
-you guessed it- Joy Division. As much as I enjoyed Gee's documentary
(which I did), it only made me appreciate Control all the more.
Corbijn, who participates in the doc, was amongst a handful of
photographers who glimpsed, first hand, the ascension of Joy Division.
While watching Gee's film it proved Corbijn spared no effort to make
Control as factual and accurate as possible. The two films make great
companion pieces, not just because JD fills in a few of Control's
narrative gaps, but mostly because it introduces us to the real faces
behind the story told in Control.
I feel like I'm slighting Gee by talking more about Control than his documentary, but the truth is, I can't say enough good things about Control...I sincerely believe it is one of the best music biopics I've ever watched. Simply put, there's little wrong with Control, and the casting alone is worthy of great praise -- not only are the actors in Control dead ringers for their real life counterparts, they're great actors.
Considering this is a review of Gee's doc, I suppose I should make an effort to discuss it. In short, JD doesn't break any new ground, nor does it provide Joy Division enthusiasts with any new revelations or insights. The greatest strength of the doc is how Gee emulates the same stylistic aesthetic associated with the band, their music, their album art and the movement they spawned. JD is a great looking documentary, visually compelling from beginning to end and its chock full of vintage, low-fi concert footage pulled out from the vaults. If you're a Joy Division fan you'll enjoy this documentary as much as I did, if not, you might enjoy it but it certainly won't change your life.
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