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Heroes of the Zeroes: Control

by on March 11, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

Rated R

Anton Corbijn delayed his leap into feature films longer than most of his music-video contemporaries. But 2007’s black-and-white “Control,” his passion project about Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, captured the tragedy of a self-loathing songwriter whose melancholy musical poetry would inspire a generation only after it drove him under.

Corbijn’s turned his former photographer’s eye on capturing expressions and mannerisms that scream volumes about a moment and a man.

“Existence, what does it matter? I exist the best way I can. The present is well out of hand.” Those lyrics to “Heart and Soul” open the film, but Sam Riley’s straightforward portrayal of Curtis pulls at neither of those. (Also, with his co-stars, Riley conjures up some of the most seamless onscreen-rock covers since “The Doors.”) This pull into an artistic abyss unfolds with an addictively narcotic crawl.

Song lyrics from “Digital,” “Transmission,” “Insight,” “Twenty-Four Hours,” “She’s Lost Control” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” portray Curtis’s emotional convulsions — self-cornered into a loveless marriage and absentee paternalism. (It’s here that “Control” claustrophobically looks closer at brief bits of “24-Hour Party People.”)

The way Curtis blocked his onstage movement mirrored isolationism in his home life. He clasped the microphone stand like a drowning man would a life preserver, but he couldn’t stay afloat in dreary waters of his own creation. (Samantha Morton excels as his wife, Deborah). Not for nothing did the last shot resemble the billowing smoke of a pyre — the last vestiges of a style and a soul.