Joy Division is a "fascinating look at the brief but vital trajectory of a band that died with its troubled frontman, Ian Curtis" (Jason Gargano, Cincinnati CityBeat), only to be reborn as the equally influential New Order... more ». Featuring interviews with all surviving band members, Joy Division explores the Manchester origins of this revolutionary act, their partnership with Factory Records founder Tony Wilson, and collaboration with legendary producer Martin Hannett.« less
Patrick J. (bossajake) from TOLEDO, OH Reviewed on 7/24/2014...
first of all, read the other reviews about this documentary, they're written by actual fans of the band and do a wonderful job of explaining the uniqueness of both the band and the film. i'm just a music fan in general, i appreciate musicians and find their lifestyle intriguing. ian curtis' voice was unique and the bands style, very fresh. also, check out the film "control", it's based on the bands early years. the acting is brilliant in that film and it's what turned my interest to the band itself.
ian curtis, the lead singer for the band, suffering from both epilepsy and depression, killed himself at the age of 23, before the band became world famous in the punk / music world. he left behind a wife, a chld, a girlfriend, his pals and many fans. death at such a young age is always tragic and may have contributed to the cult status the band now has but it really is a fascinating story of a group of kids having fun creating something entirely new in music at the time.
the bonus features are a "must see" and contain real stories from many of the major players who actually lived them. the dvd does seem to be loaded, it's like two films in one.
i highly recommend it to music fans of all genres. bossajake
The Thinking Mans Joy Division Companion
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 06/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tremendous documentary. Interviews with Annik Honore (finally!), Tony Wilson (and not someone playing Tony Wilson), and all of the surviving band members (Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, & Peter Hook) plus Buzzcock Pete Shelley and Buzzcocks manager Richard Boon, plus music journalist and Joy Division biographer Paul Morley, plus album designer Peter Saville ... this is really a goldmine for Joy Division fans. Truly, an overwhelming amount of detailed information here. Even if you think you've heard it all, stories become more than just talk when told by someone who was actually there. Plus loads of vintage footage of the band performing in various venues. More than I knew existed.
Interestingly enough the documentary starts off with a quote, that I found to be quite compelling:
To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world--and at the same time that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are.
--Marshall Berman, All That is Solid Melts Into Air
This will give you some indication that this is not your typical rock documentary that recounts the rise and fall of yet another generic rock band. This is a rock documentary that is completley different from any that you have seen before, and that is fitting given the subject matter. Manchester, we learn, was in many ways the first modern city. And Joy Division, in many ways was creatively inspired (if that is the right word) by the fact that they lived in a purely utilitarian city designed to maximize economic efficiency. (Bernard Sumner mentions, almost in passing, that he never saw a tree until he was nine.) If Control was primarily a story about a marriage, then Grant Gee's "Joy Division" is about a place and a time: Manchester in the late seventies. This sounds ambitious, and it is, but Gee succeeds brilliantly in giving us an idea of where those mysterious Joy Division sounds & visions were coming from. This is a documentary that attempts to contextualize a band that dared to be culturally significant, and does so in a culturally significant way.
Manchester is both cerebrally & viscerally unique and this is a documentary that strikes to the core of how Joy Division processed the environment that became so much a part of their music. One might almost say that this is a documentary with two subjects: Joy Division & Manchester. Grant Gee certainly has a point of view here, and many of those interviewed here seem to share the belief that there is a "psychogeographic" (at least two of them use that very word) link between the time and the place it was made & the Joy Division sound. This is maybe not a surprising observation to make for it seems obvious that we are all, to a certain extent, products of our environment, but rarely has this oft thought axiom been so well expressed, and few, I suspect, have explored it more thoroughly than Ian Curtis.
This documentary is, in short, everything that Control was not.
It is full of substantial insight.
The most insightful and revealing and moving interview is the Annik Honore interview. She is a very delicate, very sensitive creature, and also one with a very refined sensibility. When she discusses Ian's stage presence and how he transformed into another kind of person onstage it is haunting and one feels that she among all that knew him, knew & understood him best.
The surviving Joy Division, now New Order, band members are surprisingly upbeat. Each of them breaks into laughter very easily when discussing the past. Apparently, the band shied away from playing Joy Division songs until recently.
One particularly memorable moment is when Sumner plays a tape of Ian Curtis answering questions under hypnosis. Sumner asks him to remember a time before he was born and then asks him what he is doing. Ian responds that he is reading books about the law. This is a hauntingly Kafkaesque moment.
Even though producer Martin Hannett (who produced both the Buzzcocks & Joy Division) died many years ago (1991, I believe), he is present here in spirit as each of the band members remembers Hannett's highly unorthodox studio practices; his "zen" method of production as one band member puts it. Hook has been quoted as saying that Hannett is responsible for the Joy Division sound, but he seems to retract that here as he insists that although Hannett made many adjustments to the sound, he didn't write the songs. I think an entire documentary could well be dedicated to Hannett. Music journalist Paul Morley, in his book on Joy Division, states that Hannett is the kind of guy that could have heard the sound of the moon passing round the earth.
Manager, and co-founder of Factory records and the Hacienda, Rob Gretton (who died in 1999) is also remembered. On several occasions Grant Gee silently pans the many pages of Gretton's notebooks full of phone numbers, carefully calculated expenditures, events and plans, some of which came to pass, and some of which did not.
Also memorable: An always lively Tony Wilson discussing a night that he was to give a lecture, and after listening to the previous speaker (Richard Florida) go on about creative communities, deciding to talk about death.
I recently saw Control & was disappointed that so much of the film was spent on the marriage (which makes sense as it was based on Deborah Curtis' biography). But this documentary tells the story that Control did not tell. In fact Deborah does not even appear in this documentary. (Deborah is represented only by a few written quotes.) While Control was Ian & Deborah's story (as Deborah saw it), this documentary is about the whole group & Manchester & music.
Extras: DVD includes the entirety of the Joy Division performance of "Transmission" on the SO IT GOES show. Plus loads of interview extras that take as much time to watch as the actual film, including discussions of everything from WWII (Morris calls it "the first big spin") to synthesizers (Sumners built the first one the band used).
If Control was the populist Joy Division project, this documentary is the thinking mans Joy Division project.
Highly recommended for purchase because there is so much here that bears repeated viewing."
The Creative Genius of Joy Division at Odds with Chaos.
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 05/05/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Grant Gee is best known for his highly-recommended documentary about Radiohead, Radiohead - Meeting People Is Easy (1999). His new 93-minute documentary will not only appeal to fans of the Manchester band, Joy Division, but to anyone who experienced Anton Corbijn's 2007 film, Control, which was based on Deborah Curtis's book, Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis & Joy Division. Drawing from interviews from many of the key players in the Joy Division story (including the three other bandmates, guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris, who went on to form New Order; roadie Terry Mason, and Tony Wilson, the founder of Factory Records), Gee's oral history of the band chronicles the short, unhappy life of Ian Curtis (1956-1980), from his pursuit of art and literature at age 17 (while obsessed with David Bowie), to attending a fateful Sex Pistols' gig in 1976 (where he met the other members of Joy Division), to his contributions as lead singer and darkly prophetic lyricist for that brilliant post-punk band (which he joined the same year), to his May 18, 1980 suicide at age 23. The film includes haunting, footage of the band in concert, including a full performance of "Transmission." Although this documentary will find its audience mostly in fans of Joy Division, like Anton Corbijn's recent biopic, Gee's documentary argues that the Joy Division story deserves a much wider audience for its mesmerizing portrait of a post-punk artist as a young man. Gee's film reveals the real genius of Joy Division as more than just a British pub band, but as a creative force working against chaos, entropy, and an industrial city in decline to the band's unexpected end with the death of Curtis. I have given this film four stars only when measured against Gee's Radiohead documentary.
The Definitive Documentary - FINALLY
call me The Avi | "In my dreams I live in California......" | 06/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From beginning to end, this was an illuminating look at the phenomenon that was Joy Division. I was motivated to watch this after viewing the film Control, and this is definitely a companion piece to it. However, I was also very much reminded of New Order Story - the documentary about the band that rose from Joy Division's ashes. The Joy Division beginnings are mentioned in NOS, but are for the most part glossed over. That film covered the Who and What of JD before continuing on; this documentary talks about the Why, and in great depth.
The other members of Joy Division were famously quiet on the topic of Ian Curtis for many years; it's wonderful to hear them open up and talk about it. It was also enlightening to FINALLY hear from Annik Honore'. She's been kind of a biographical footnote for years, and is mentioned only in passing in Deborah Curtis's biography of Ian. Finally we can put a face to the name and hear her side of Ian's story.
If you're at all interested in Ian and the band, you'd be foolish NOT to see this."
Don't Walk Away In Silence
scott c | Seattle | 06/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a fan of Joy Division, you know how it's been. You wait, hope and pray for anything you haven't heard, read or seen before. A rare, live version of Shadowplay on an import CD that might send tingles up your spine. Just like the first time. Or a piece of new information in a hard to find book that might shed more light on the mystery that is Joy Division. We want to know more, we want to know why, we want to know everything.
Now we can rest. Joy Division (The Miriam Collection) (2007) is the elixir we've been seeking for a lifetime. No more second rate documentaries thrown together, offering nothing. Here are the older men; New Order opening up as never before. Anton Corbijn recounting why he moved to Manchester. Annik Honore coming forward after a quarter century with a perspective only she could have. And Genesis P-Orridge.
Many people forget or aren't aware that Throbbing Gristle, the most influential band industrial music has ever known, were huge fans of Joy Division. While their musical styles are different, both offer heavy soundtracks of a grim, bleak and hopeless late 1970's England. Genesis got to know Ian towards the end of his days and offers great insight into the man well beyond the myth. Yes, Genesis does look more and more like Liza Minelli every day and that can have a disturbing effect on viewers. Yet after seeing the factory heavy landscape of Manchester and England some 30 years ago, I'm frankly surprised that anyone survived. So, grab another tube of lipstick, Genesis, and have fun.
Sometimes, penetrating the mythology and legend of a enigmatic band can be a disappointment. After learning what you longed to learn, the esotericism is gone and little remains. That is not the case here. Joy Division was far more than the sum of its parts. Beyond the suicide, the profoundly dark music and powerful artwork was a band that transcended time and means as much today as ever. In spite of the God awful Goth label that gets attached to them, they have proven that they were a tough band in a tough time, clawing at the walls and expressing better than most what it felt like to be screwed.
This is the sound of disillusionment. For every kid or adult who has ever felt something is wrong and can't put their finger on it. Alienation, anger, intellect and the poetry of hopelessness. To this day, as shown in this film, Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner still don't think Unknown Pleasures is a good album. Not because it's a sub par record but because it's so weighted with darkness. And it is. For the suicidal, Unknown Pleasures and Closer could act at gateways to the grave. New Order spoke about how they didn't know what the lyrics to Closer were during the recording. Maybe they didn't want to know, or, as someone said, maybe they thought it was just harmless art. In retrospect, those very lyrics were bullets in a gun. Closer is so drenched in sorrow that possibly the only way it could be made was through a certain youthful ignorance. It is touching to see New Order talk about that time regretfully, being so young and naive. It's no wonder that it took so long for them to talk about those dark days.
But talk they did and we as fans are better off for it. This documentary was an absolute pleasure and deepened my love for Joy Division. Like their music, this film makes you feel. If by the end you don't experience the cold chill of a dreadful finality, you're not really alive. While Joy Division may sound like an auditory funeral at times, there is a paradoxical sense of survival. Against all odds, without reason or desire, we must go on. We must go on..."