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USA 2006
Directed by
Grant Gee
93 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrea Buck
5 stars

Joy Division

Synopsis: A documentary about Manchester’s legendary post-punk band.

Punk was about “Fuck You”. Joy Division was about “I’m Fucked”.

Joy Division is the story of one of the most influential bands Manchester has ever produced. In 1976 after attending a Sex Pistols concert, four young men from ruined, post-industrial Manchester founded Joy Division, not so much because of their deep desire to be musicians but because they could not see any other way out. They did not even know how to play; they had just caught a glimpse of the power of punk, and thought, hell – we can do that!

And eventually they did. They took their seed from pun, but with more to say, with more complexity and a depth beyond their years they produced two outstanding albums. With only those two works they have proven to be one of the most inventive and influential bands of their era. Only two works, all the rest is merchandising memory. Two works and such power, such memories. Anyone who walked that era, felt those emotions, heard those sounds, lived that time might still find it difficult to grasp just how much we were given from two releases of vinyl. Watching this film is a journey back in time, a reminder that magic does exist, and that Joy Division had it, were it: the light, the spirit. Going back and hearing their music again one realizes how contemporary they still sound, while for 93 minutes we see the world through their eyes.

Directed by Grant Gee, written by music critic Jon Savage, and mostly told by Tony Wilson, Joy Division explores the profound legacy of the band’s collective musical genius and singular vision. It is a film, of course, so much about Ian Curtis: the talent, the legend, the illness, the tragedy; the possessed; the sacrificed. And it is a film also about Manchester. Joy Division were the ambient sound of their environment; they were the science fiction version of Manchester. They singularly took Manchester to the world and changed what Manchester would become.

Joy Division is a film that I found powerful, sensitive, spiritual, insightful, visceral, sad, inspiring, cautioning, honest. It is beautiful and intelligent with high-quality film research, moving and in-depth artist interviews with Joy Division/New Order band members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris and thoughts and theories from members of the band’s wider circle (Peter Saville, Malcolm Whitehead, Genesis P. Orridge) and, most significantly, Ian Curtis’ girlfriend at the time of his suicide, Annick Honoré.

Gee’s documentary is exceptional. It is not sentimental. It is simply honest.




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