JOY DIVISION: UNDER REVIEW

Directed by Christian Davies. 2006.


Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk
 
 


 
 

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“Don’t walk away, in silence. See the danger, Always danger, Endless talking, Life rebuilding, Don’t walk away” from Atmosphere by Ian Curtis. 


Ian Curtis, the lead singer of the British rock group known as Joy Division, has become an iconic figure since his death. Suffering from epilepsy that had been growing worse and feeling guilt over an extra-marital affair, Curtis, only 24-years old, hanged himself in his apartment in May of 1980 shortly before his band was to embark on their first U.S. tour. Curtis’ life and the story of Joy Division are eulogized in the documentary Joy Division: Under Review, directed by Christian Davies. The film is more than a profile of Curtis, looking younger and more innocent than portrayed in Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People. It is also an examination by musicians and journalists of the factors that catapulted the band to success and why they had so much influence over groups such as U2, Interpol, The Killers, and many others...

The 70-minute film mostly traces the growth of Joy Division from its beginnings as Warsaw to its reincarnation as New Order after Curtis’ death. Those interviewed include: Mick Middles, co-author of Torn Apart: The Life Of Ian Curtis; former NME and Melody Maker journalist, Barney Hoskyns; Ex-Mojo Magazine editor, Pat Gilbert; Manchester punk musician and author, John Robb; music journalist and author David Stubbs. There is footage of Curtis and the band performing live as well as “rare” photos and excerpts from a Manchester interview with Curtis from 1979. There are also short clips from the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Clash, The Doors, Can, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, The Ronettes, Frank Sinatra, and New Order performing Blue Monday live in 1983. 

The DVD is divided into the following chapters: Beginnings, An Ideal For Living, A Factory Sample, Unknown Pleasures, Autosuggestion, Transmission, Atmosphere, Love Will Tear Us Apart, Closer, and New Order. Bonus features include a "transcribed” Ian Curtis audio interview, 'The Hardest Joy Division Quiz in the World Ever', and contributor biographies. On the whole, this DVD is recommended for Joy Division fans, but has to be considered disappointing in light of the fact that there are no interviews with surviving band members: Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook Stephen Morris, or even producer Tony Wilson and the video clips are short, fragmented, and fuzzy. 

Even with its deficiencies, however, the quality of the music comes through. Joy Division only released two albums but songs such as Atmosphere, Love Will Tear Us Apart, and Twenty-Four Hours are standards by which all other rock songs are measured. Even 26 years after Ian Curtis’ death, the eulogizing continues and another film on Ian Curtis, Anton Corbijn’s Control is now in production. 

GRADE: B
 

Howard Schumann
 
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