The 2007 BRM Fall Film Festival Preview #6: Grant Gee's <i>Joy Division</i>

by twhalliii
September 2, 2007 6:38 AM
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While fans everywhere await Control (and while I count myself among those who are dying to see Anton Corbjin's Ian Curtis biopic, I'm waiting for its theatrical run at Film Forum), the Toronto Film Festival catalogue held an instant surprise for me when I saw that the festival would be showing Grant Gee's Joy Division, a documentary portrait of Curtis' band. Importantly, Gee got access to the three surviving members of Joy Division (Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris who went on to become New Order) and the late Tony Wilson, who signed the band to his Manchester-based Factory Records label. Gee, whose cinematic portrait of Radiohead, Meeting People Is Easy, is the final word on the drudgery of fame, is also involved as the Director of Photography for the Swarm of Angels Project, a creative collaboration between artists that will produce a film under the Creative Commons License, making it probably the first high-profile open-source film project of its kind.

The influence of Joy Division on rock and roll in the last thirty years is pretty much immeasurable; For a band that recorded two albums of music, they have produced many heirs and the love of generations worth of fans. They have also been the subject of three three major film projects in the past few years (24 Hour Party People being the first) and while the tragic story of a suicidal musician cut off in his prime tends to romanticize the band in the eyes of fans who buy into the "hope I die before I get old" school of fame, the older I get, the more of a terrible waste it seems for Ian Curtis to be gone. Sure, Joy Division never got to sully their legacy with an unpopular record or a change of style, but like any great band, they would have endured regardless and the world would never have been deprived of Ian Curtis' particular brand of genius. Instead of something wonderful and vital, Joy Division has become, for me anyway, something frozen in amber, an unchanging, beautiful thing like a statue from an earlier age that still tells me something about the world today. Toronto is certainly the place I want to see Gee's film; With excellent projection and multiplex sound, this is the place to see one of the best bands in history finally have their collective story told.

Joy Division, Transmission & She's Lost Control Live, 1979

Grant Gee's Joy Division is playing at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival in the festival's Real To Reel section.

Tomorrow: Julian Schnabel's Lou Reed's Berlin

Lee Issac Chung's Munyurangabo (Liberation Day)

Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret's Meduzot (Jellyfish)

Harmony Korine's Mister Lonely

Julian Schnabel's Le Scaphandre Et Le Papillon (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly)

Santosh Sivan's Before The Rains

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  • Tom | September 13, 2007 11:04 AMReply

    Having seen the film now, and hearing it straight from Bernard Sumner's mouth ("You all forgot Rudolph Hess!"), the original Joy Division 7" certainly carried serious Nazi iconography. The picture of a Hitler Youth beating a drum with the Joy Division name, there is no doubting that the band utilized Nazi iconography. In Sumner's words, the name 'clicked' and it sounded punk rock. I agree with that. I also agree with tc above that this was an ironic stance, and I have no doubts at all that everyone in the band were humanists and artists and in no way supported Nazi ideology. Regardless, great band and GREAT film.

  • Tom | September 3, 2007 4:49 AMReply

    Don't disagree on that point, and yet...

    Joy Division, Nazi iconography in the name and still beautiful music.

    Whereas, Skrewdriver, hardware store iconography and shit Nazi music.

    What's in a name? A rose by any other name and don't judge a book by it's cover, etc etc. ??

    I (probably mistakenly) hope that Joy Division as a name is ironic, just like New Order (I hope). Can't be sure, but I do hope.

  • Tom | September 3, 2007 4:41 AMReply

    Thanks Goran!

    I saw that article this morning and while I was tracking that film for awhile, I am so excited it was well received. I obviously can't wait to see it and will be writing about it soon. Thanks for thinking of me...


  • goran | September 3, 2007 2:22 AMReply

    Hi Tom
    This isn't a comment on the post - I just couldn't track down your e-mail and I had to pass on this link to you since I can't imagine anyone else would be as excited

  • simon deverson | September 2, 2007 8:02 AMReply

    i too think that joy division were a great band but i just wish that rock musicians would'nt flirt with nazi iconography or names