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Joy Division

(2007) *** R
96 min. The Weinstein Company. Cast: Anton Corbijn.

/content/films/3099/1.jpgThe ad copy for Grant Gee's 2007 Joy Division calls it "the definitive documentary on Joy Division," and given the roster of participants, it seems a reasonable claim. Gee (Radiohead: Meeting People Is Easy) gathers the surviving band members for thorough interviews, as well as key players like TV host/music impresario Tony Wilson, album cover designer Peter Saville, and Ian Curtis' out-of-wedlock lover, Annik Honore (though Deborah Curtis elected not to appear onscreen, she is represented by words from her memoir Touching From a Distance).

Fans will have long ago absorbed every detail presented in this doc, but Gee presents the information artfully, putting special emphasis on how Joy Division is entertwined with the modern history of Manchester, the band's home base. By helping to transform pop music with a bridge from punk to modern rock, Joy Division helped a factory town gain a new identity as a modern city.

The surviving band members—Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals) and Stephen Morris (drums and percussion)—provide the meat of the documentary. Hook, or "Hooky," provides the most gregarious commentary, but all are likeable, frank, and even self-critical in their recollections. Sumner recalls clearing the ignominy of clearing the dance floor of their local club by convincing the DJ to play their first pressing, and all lament that they didn't process the warning signs of Curtis' iminent demise. (We also hear the Curtis "regression therapy" tape made by Sumner shortly before Curtis' death.)

Of course, any recounting of the history of Joy Division will revolve around frontman Ian Curtis, whose death at age 23 ended Joy Division and began the history of the likewise influential New Order. As Saville puts it, "Ian's story is one of the last true stories in pop," before business seemed decisively to overtake art. Indeed, it's hard to see any post-milennial musicians (thus far) as having the kind of impact that spawns documentaries like this one.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1

Street date: 6/4/2008

Distributor: The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment

To accompany the Ian Curtis docudrama Control, The Miriam Collection (The Weinsteins' answer to The Criterion Collection) offers a special edition of Joy Division. A solid presentation in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby surround sound is accompanied by a bulk of additional footage: 48 additional scenes totalling over 75 minutes (play any one, and the rest continue to play in succession, so selecting Clip 1 is the same as "Play All"). They're well worth watching, as is the Music Video "Transmission" (3:23), performed by Joy Division in 1979 on the BBC's Something Else. The disc's previews include Control, I'm Not There, Berlin, and Pete Seeger: The Power of Song.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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