My first boyfriend when I came to NYC, the lead singer of a local goth band, introduced me to Joy Division – not the band itself, and not the music, since I was already a goth and well-aware of their songs – but the phenomenon. I was a big sound Sisters of Mercy chick who didn’t quite get it, a fan of over-the-top goth like Bauhaus, and the catchy dance beat of the band Joy Division evolved into, New Order. Joy Division itself was more like those minimalist 4AD bands – goth lite. The boyfriend was long out of my life by the time I realized my mistake. You can’t just listen to Joy Division – you have to absorb their aura. Now thanks to Grant Gee’s documentary “Joy Division” (written by punk rock’s tireless chronicler Jon Savage), which Surround Sounds the story of the band with the feel of Manchester through a collage of images, I understand why this is. The British director, by placing himself in the environment that birthed Joy Division, soaks in the band’s essence. This is something that Anton Corbijn, a Dutch photographer and cinematographer who shot the infamous video for “Atmosphere” (and appears in Gee’s doc), and tread the same material in his biopic “Control,” completely lost amidst his lush, gorgeous and painfully stark imagery. Corbijn’s certainly got more artistic talent than Gee, but less of an understanding of the band he knew as a young photojournalist. There’s just less substance in “Control.”
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