I had not been to a screening at a film festival until Saturday night. Leslie of Sell Her Suit fame and I attended the AFI Dallas screening of 'Joy Division'. I had no idea this film was showing in Dallas until Nicole, a FEVER regular, told me about it. I was able to grab two tickets at the last minute; a purchase I will never regret.
'Joy Division' is a documentary directed by Grant Gee, the same man who brought us Radiohead's 'Meeting People is Easy', easily one of the most depressing tour films ever made. The difference between 'Meeting...' and 'Joy Division', however, was that I already knew how the story would end. For those that are unaware, Joy Division were a Manchester four piece band in the late 1970s punk movement. Most of their success had to do with the writing and vocals of Ian Curtis, who at their peak, succumbed to the pressures of illness, family life, and being a star. He committed suicide in May of 1980 at the age of 23.
The story of the band is told through previously unseen photos, concert footage, and rare recordings, as well as stories from surviving members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris. You might know those three under their most recent stage name, New Order. In addition to them, you hear commentary from the likes of Peter Shelley of the Buzzcocks, Genesis P. Orridge of Throbbing Gristle, and the late Tony Wilson. Their stories tell the tale of a band who are as highly regarded in their native England as the likes of Bob Dylan here in America. They also tell the tale of a man in Curtis, who is regarded as not only one of the greatest songwriters, but one of England's greatest writers, period. Ultimately, the hero of the story is the city of Manchester itself, for Joy Division helped to reinvigorate the city's music scene, and ultimately led to a lot of the Manchester bands you know today (Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Oasis, Doves, and many others).
I have seen the Anton Corbijn film 'Control', a biopic about the life of Ian Curtis, and Gee's 'Joy Division' documentary is a perfect companion piece to Corbijn's work. The best thing about both films is that they both end musically with the song "Atmosphere". As was the case with 'Control', I felt the chills as the song began, and felt my eyes begin to water as Curtis would sing, "Don't walk away in silence". It is such a powerful and beautiful song, and a fitting way to end the films.
The film is showing once more on Monday night at 9:45pm at the Angelika in Dallas (Mockingbird Station). For more information, visit the AFI Dallas website.
Joy Division - "Atmosphere" (directed by Anton Corbijn, 1988):