'Control' Anton Corbijn's music biopic investigates why the young lead singer of a British post-punk rock band hanged himself — just as fame was finally coming his way. Ecstatically reviewed in Britain, the film loyally duplicates the band's throbbing, anarchic sound.
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Arts & Life


Sam Riley plays lead singer Ian Curtis in Anton Corbijn's Control. Dean Rogers/The Weinstein Company hide caption

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Dean Rogers/The Weinstein Company

Sam Riley plays lead singer Ian Curtis in Anton Corbijin's music documentary Control.

Dean Rogers/The Weinstein Company
  • Director: Anton Corbijn
  • Genre: Biography/Drama/Music
  • Running Time: 121 minutes

Fans of the Brit post-punk rockers Joy Division have been salivating for months over Anton Corbijn's film — ecstatically reviewed in Britain — which takes a heroic stab at fathoming why, just as fame was finally coming the band's way, its lead singer, Ian Curtis, hanged himself at 23.

Explanations abound in the luminous black-and-white biopic — Curtis' marriage, his epilepsy, the disconnect between his growing stardom and his life in Manchester — and with Sam Riley a near-double for the young rock god, the effect at times is that you're watching a gorgeously produced music documentary.

Concert sequences are riveting, with Riley and the other musicians performing live, and duplicating both the throbbing, anarchic Joy Division sound, and the spasmodic automaton-ish flailings of its lead singer — a sort of stylized version of the epileptic fits that sometimes felled him.

The film leaves you with the impression of an almost painfully innocent young singer, for whom alienation was, alas, far more than a pose.