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Posted October 26, 2007 in Film

 

</p>"I exist on the best terms I can," says Ian Curtis in the opening minutes of Anton Corbijn’s grittily beautiful arthouse biopic, shot on a black and white filmstock that picks up every nick in the wallpaper and every smudge on the windows. Yet just before his 24th birthday, the husband, father, and lead singer of Joy Division hung himself in his kitchen. No one ever mistook the lyricist behind "Isolation," "Dead Souls," and "Failures" for an optimist, however Matt Greenhalgh’s script (modelled on a tell-all by Ian’s widow) doesn’t reveal a pessimist but a romantic. As a wolfish, shirtless teen enthralled with eyeliner and David Bowie, Ian (Sam Riley) fell in love with the drama of falling for his best friend’s girl Deborah (Samantha Morton, convincingly playing half her age). This shy and painfully passive miss was a perfect object for his devotion; they got engaged at 17 almost as an act of rebellion. But when the newlyweds went to see the Sex Pistols, Debbie cowered as though Sid Vicious might bite her while Ian immediately formed a band. When Warsaw-soon to be Joy Division-started storming the Manchester scene, Ian started writing HATE on his jackets and looking pained as his utterly square (and now pregnant) wife stood awkwardly in the front of their concerts in her sweet striped jumpers. Ian’s trapped between insurrection and guilt, and so is Corbijn’s film which mires itself in the artist’s bourgeoisie dramas without figuring out how they influenced his music. Which is frustrating as breakout star Riley must spend much of the movie looking stiff, quiet and sullen like a Byzantine saint when just like Ian-unnervingly so-he slowly and furiously comes to life when singing, his shirt and hair damp with sweat, shoulders shimmying bonelessly, elbows jerking in the air like a shaken marionette. Ian’s romance with hipster journalist Annik Honoré (Alexandra Maria Lara) and Deborah’s impending divorce build to Ian’s suicide, but what Corbijin (who knew the band as an NME photographer in the ’70s) deliberately leaves unresolved is whether he slipped into the noose on a whim. After his death what speaks volumes about the shallow end of the industry is that his Factory Records head Tony Wilson escorts Annik to the funeral, while our last image of Debbie is her alone with his corpse and their child screaming, "Can somebody help me!?" (Amy Nicholson)</p>


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