On 18th May 1980 Ian Curtis took his own life at the age of 23, leaving a wife and young child behind. That’s the real tragedy of the Joy Division singer’s demise.
The fact that he was the most single influential British songwriter and performer of his generation pales into insignificance against the heart rending futility and waste of a young life, and its impact on those left behind.
Once again the spectre of suicide casts its pall across this Parish, forcing your correspondent to face up to life in all it’s true fucked up glory, but I found it strangely reassuring what happened to Ian Curtis.
It was no one’s “fault”.
A combination of epilepsy and prescription drugs unleashed the demons that existed in his (and potentially all our) heads as that imperceptible, onion thin layer of self-preservation melted away and exposed the raw part of his emotions to the harsh realities that exist everywhere, but from which we are protected, however imperceptibly.
Where the Sex Pistols, necessarily, were destructive, Ian Curtis and Joy Division were creative and stepped into the musical vacuum left by Punk.
A line can be traced directly through British music from this Band through the Fall, the Smiths, Happy Mondays, to Oasis, the Manics, Libertines and the first Arctic Monkeys record.
But the film, although featuring the music of Ian Curtis, never wavered form it’s purpose of commentating, and trying to reach an understanding of what ailed this young genius, and this was reflected in the stunning performance of Sam Riley in the lead, and of Samantha Morton who despite her ITV Drama pedigree, impresses me more and more. She was excellent as Myra Hindley in Longford, and captured the soul of Mary Queen of Scots in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
The film was produced by Tony Wilson in alliance with Curtis’ widow Deborah and it occurred to me that we might not be getting the full story, as they would wish to preserve Curtis’ memory and we all know what a narcissistic bugger Wilson was but, whatever issues that may raise, Control is a searing and (appearingly) brutal piece which puts me in mind of a cross between Jean Paul Sartre’s Les Mains Sales, and Saturday Night, Sunday Morning due to Anton Corbijn’s sparse Black and White production values.
This is a great movie, understated and all the better for it, delving into issues of love, real friendship, and what art is really for.
Humour is regularly a feature, even in such a seemingly Kafkaesque piece. Can Hooky REALLY be so wickedly funny all the time? I imagine so, and it is fitting that Control provides such a good postscript for the genius that was Anthony H. Wilson, the man who had the vision to allow British music to re invent itself
It is October 1987, Stuarts Gardens, Portstewart, Co Derry and our student house.
I am playing a tape of Joy Division.
Mike Fisher: That’s just bloody student music!
Me: Yeah, and you like Bob Dylan.
Fisher: Yes, but the difference is that I understand Bob Dylan.
Some things should never be forgotten, or lived down.