Jonah Hex is a scarred drifter and bounty hunter of last resort, a tough and stoic gunslinger who can track down anyone and anything. Having survived death, Jonah’s violent history is steeped in myth and legend, and has left him with one foot in the natural world and one on the “other side.” His only human connection is with Leila, whose life in a brothel has left her with scars of her own. But Jonah’s past is about to catch up with him when the U.S. military makes him an offer he can’t refuse.
So at this stage we all know the story of Joy Division. Four young men from working class Manchester who in the 1970’s, made some of the most extraordinary and influential music in pop history. More than that, they have also made a huge impact in cinema in the last few years. As the new documentary from director Grant Gee opens this week, movies.ie looks at Joy Division in the movies.
In many ways, Joy Division are the perfect band to portray on film. Their story has the magic formula of bravado, brilliance and tragedy, although Ian Curtis inevitably has become the focus of most of the attention. As well as being the very image of the “doomed genius,” he was also extremely iconic. His death knell vocal style is immediately recognisable and his epileptic dancing is aped every weekend in indie discos across the land.
So far though, we have only seen fictionalised versions of the band’s life, seen through the eyes of those on the sidelines.
Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People told the story of Madchester through the inimitable words of Factory Records’ Tony Wilson played with pitch perfect accuracy by Steve Coogan. Tony’s motto of always printing the legend rather than the truth when given the choice, gives an indication of his tendency to be less than economical with the truth. Still, when it came to Joy Division, he was keen to try and pull apart the image of the band as miserable. The film shows the band as ordinary people with extraordinary talents. They are funny, irritable and very, very Northern. Sean Harris brings a spiky, sarcastic edge to Curtis, while Ralf Little as Peter Hook gives us the cocky Northern attitude and John Simm as Bernard Sumner becomes the heart of the band. When Joy Division implode following Curtis’ suicide, the film continues on, showing us the aftermath of the event, for those who knew him as well as for music in Manchester as a whole.
Then, last year Anton Corbijn’s Control starring newcomer Sam Riley was released to wide spread critical acclaim. The film was based on Touching From a Distance, the autobiography of Ian’s widow Deborah, played by the always wonderful Samantha Morton. Unlike 24 Hour Party People, it tells the story of the life rather than the music of Ian and does so through the eyes of his put upon wife as she lives in his not inconsiderable shadow. Long time collaborator of the band Corbijn directs, bringing to life the iconic monochrome photos he took of the band throughout their career. In the tradition of the best music films, Control does not fall into hero worship of its subject and acknowledges when it came to being a family man at least, Curtis was far from perfect.
Joy Division, a documentary released this week promises to be somewhat different from these fictional accounts of the band. It looks outside of the tragedy that has inevitably come to dominate the legacy of the band and attempts to paint the picture of four Manc lads who in the words of bassist Peter Hook didn’t know what they were doing of why they were doing it. This is the first chance we have had to get the full story right from those who matter – all three surviving members of the band, as well as a supporting cast of the major personalities of the Manchester scene, including the late great Tony Wilson, music journalist Paul Morley and Buzzcocks Pete Shelley. The film tells its story through a mixture of vintage footage and new interviews. Particularly of interest to anyone who saw Control, is that this will be the first opportunity to hear from Annik Honore, the music journalist who became Curtis’ lover during his marriage to Deborah – perhaps to set the record straight. Regardless, this is a must see for the Joy Division fan. Don’t miss the opportunity to get the story from those who lived through it.