Joy and Sorrow

Bernard, Ian, Peter, & Stephen in Manc

Y’know, I felt expectedly sad but still in control throughout Grant Gee’s documentary about Joy Division—long one of my favourite bands—before finally breaking down and sobbing over a visual pun at the end of it all. Gee had overlaid footage of a New Order performance of “Shadowplay” and footage of a Joy Division performance of same (one shadowing the other, you see) and, my God, what a terrible feeling of loss came over me.

Ian Curtis was gone before I’d ever even heard the band. I was introduced to the music of Joy Division by my friend Peter (who had eclectic tastes and who introduced me to a lot of interesting music) when I was in third-year university. At that time, the band’s dark and brooding post-punk music resonated with me and it has remained very important, very personal to me even though I’ve gone through a lot of changes since then. The intriguing thing about their music is that it just doesn’t sound dated. It doesn’t sound out of place today—nor has it ever, throughout all the years since it was laid into wax. They were way ahead of their time back then and, despite their minimal output, are generally considered a hugely influencial band.

I first heard of Gee’s documentary in the run-up to TIFF07, where it got its world premiere. This film, along with the North American premiere of a dramatized version of the story (Anton Corbijn’s Control) meant that Joy Division was certainly well represented at the film fest. Unfortunately, neither film screened during the few days I attended and—naturally—neither film ever showed up onscreen in the city where I live, so their release this summer on DVD was much anticipated.   Continue reading