Joy Division’s stock has never been so high. The award winning film, the iconic artwork on skateboards, trainers and tops, the many books, the re-re-mastered deluxe CDs, ringtones and the omnipresent use of their music from televised football matches to, even more bizarrely, documentaries about Michael Jackson.
Although great for spreading their music to a new generation, it also strips yet more layers off one of the finest and most mysterious legacies of British music.
If last year’s Control was Ian Curtis’ wife Deborah’s side of the story with it being based on her 1995 book, Touching From A Distance, Joy Division tells the story in a much less biased way.
Directed by Grant Gee (whose previous work includes the documentation of Radiohead’s breakdown during their OK Computer world tour in 1998’s claustrophobic Meeting People Is Easy), Joy Division gives their fans a true insight into the band which Control couldn’t give due to Debbie Curtis being , this time around, apparently frozen out of the picture.
Although the majority of the footage of the band is nowhere near as rare as it should be, what sets this documentary apart is the emotional interview that Ian Curtis’ lover, Annik Honoré gives on film for the first time.
Visibly distressed at revisiting what must have been a scary time for all involved, her distress melts into a warm account of Ian being a highly complex character and gentle lover. The rest of Joy Division give varying accounts; Hooky is as boisterous as usual, Barney pensive and Stephen Morris who can only laugh about it now, but does nothing else. The late Tony Wilson roles out the exact same script he has used for describing Joy Division for the previous thirty years: ”They didn’t want to be on stage, they had no fucking choice.”
What with many of the main players of the story deceased; singer, manager; producer; label owner, and New Order currently at war with each other, this is the end, the final chapter.
Although it is great to see their infamous shambolic live performances on the big screen rather than on a dodgy file-sharing site, Joy Division seems like a missed opportunity. But as a document of concrete high rises in a post industrial no hope town in the Seventies, it’s a great history lesson with the glorious grey monochrome beauty of their music providing one of the best soundtracks of all time.
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