Saturday, April 18, 2015

Joy Division (2007 film)




Directed and shot by Grant Gee and written by Jon Savage, Joy Division is a film about the seminal British post-punk band from the late 1970s who would become very influential during their brief period that spanned only two studio albums. Told through new interviews with former members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris as they would later form New Order along with interviews from Factory Records co-founder Tony Wilson, Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, filmmaker/photographer Anton Corbijn, and several others attached to the group. The result is one of the most exhilarating and captivating films about one of the greatest British bands of the 20th Century

Though they only lasted for four years from their formation in 1976 and their dissolution in 1980 with only two studio albums released in June of 1979 and July of 1980. There is no band that is considered more influential in the world of post-punk, indie, and alternative music than Joy Division. While its surviving members in guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris would form New Order after the end of the band with Morris’ then-girlfriend Gillian Gilbert on keyboards to great acclaim and success. What Sumner, Hook, and Morris did in Joy Division with vocalist Ian Curtis wasn’t just monumental in the world of popular music but also into what it reflected during what was a tumultuous period in the United Kingdom during the late 1970s.

Under the direction of Grant Gee, the film isn’t just a traditional documentary as it plays more into not just the band’s history up to Curtis’ death in May 18, 1980 from a suicide at the age of 25. It also plays into the band’s connection with its home city of Manchester which was in economic and social ruin by the mid-1970s. It was at the legendary Lesser Free Trade Hall performance from the Sex Pistols in June of 1976 where many stated that the music scene in Manchester was born. Among the group of people that attended the show were members of Joy Division as they were those at that show that started a band. Many of the interviews are conducted with various individuals in a room as Gee just goes for something straightforward.

Among them aside from the band is the late Factory Records co-founder Tony Wilson, band sleeve designer Peter Saville, Genesis P-Orridge of the seminal industrial band Throbbing Gristle, and others who were associated with the band. Many of which play into the history and what was happening in Manchester as it was considered the very first modern city. Also discussed is what the band was doing outside of their activities as well as some insight into Ian Curtis’ state of mind during the last months in his life.

For the music, Gee decides to use many archival footage and present-day images of Manchester to showcase exactly how the band’s music fitted in with its environment where the result is astonishingly perfect. Especially in how the rhythm of the music manages to capture a day in the life of a city in its it dreary moments but also at its busiest. With the help of editor/sound designer Jerry Chater, Gee gathers various archival audio and video footage from the band’s performances in live shows and rare TV appearances during the late 1970s. With Chater’s editing, the usage of dissolves and distorted images help play into the impact of the music with images inter-cut with the city as it plays into the band’s upbringing no matter how dreary it was in the late 70s to what has changed since then. Even as Gee would shoot in locations where some of those clubs and such used to be that the band got their start in.

Joy Division is a tremendous film from Grant Gee. The film is truly one of the finest documentaries ever told about one of the great British bands of the 20th Century that has managed to influence so much in the world of popular music. Even as the film is told with such style while being a companion piece to other films related to the band. In the end, Joy Division is a phenomenal film from Grant Gee.

Related: 24 Hour Party People - Control (2007 film)

© thevoid99 2015

2 comments:

J.D. Lafrance said...

Huge Joy Division fan so this was a nice flip side to the dramatization film CONTROL. They really unearthed some fantastic footage of the band in action and really dug as deep as you can for such a running time. Good stuff!

thevoid99 said...

For me, this film is essential to the story of Joy Division though if I was to choose a narrative version that best told the band's story. It's 24 Hour Party People.