«Control VoSTBil 2#01 Dolby SRD»
Since April, there has been a bit more focus on learning this thing called photography. As I re-read the previous posts on this blog, they seem to be so relevant to the quest that has become photography. The idea is in the new year, coincidentally not because of the magic of a new year, to make a bigger push to the professional aspect of it. This is a huge jump that I never wanted to take, but how else to pursue it? Perhaps this is something to write about at a later post, as it is full of drama and we know that blogs is about creating drama.
Aside from further style refinements, there is also the use of the last few months to see a way into portraits or people moments photography, which has been such a hurdle before -- and not overcome just yet. I also made the unexpected move of getting a printer to make professional prints and learn more about the final step in the digital darkroom. I thought there would be a way to distribute the photos for enjoyment and forgo the printing process, but I just could not figure out a way. The internet is not there yet, but I hope it will be in the future, along with more affordable gadgets.
The big sign of the importance of photography comes from its merging, internally, with music. I am nowhere near a musician, but following music has always been a big part of my life with many aspirations for writing articles and other things like that, but the environment was not one that clicked with me. Photography has overcome that practicality part of a profession, as it were, but they seem to have merged together in so many ways: the way that I feel about them. As a result, this blog will actually be about both subjects. This is fitting, since the name of the blog is a song by Wire and my increasing interest in concert photography.
So, it is suitable to start this new part by talking about Control, the new and first movie from photographer Anton Corbijn.
25 nov 2007 :: part 1
The first even of the day was to go and see Control with friends, in Brussels, at the Actors Studio Cinema. As we walked into the theater, the door to the projection room was opened and I snapped the photo above. I had some trepidation about watching this movie for many personal reasons, but most of it all it was blowing away a context that I had created over the last 27 years, since I first heard the album Closer.
As to the film's accuracy, I really did not care to view it in that context. The movie is not a documentary, but a two hour interpretation of a biased book. This was not a source to extract little trivia about this obscure era in the band's development or Ian Curtis' life. I realize that such lack of information makes it very much unavoidable that accuracy and information provided is going to be a point of contention. This is of no concern to me, or very little. The work from Anton is compelling and a directorial debut is very intriguing, and it won in the end over the concerns that I had.
Many albums have served as a "suicide note" or a glimpse into an artist's undoing. There is Pink Moon from Nick Drake, and Lady in Satin by Billie Holiday. Those that prefer Billie at her peak, this album may be an abomination [review]. Many others that I talk to prefer other albums from Drake. However, how they provide a glimpse into the end of life for a person, they cannot be ignored. The human condition cannot be such to avoid it, or be indifferent. The same has been said about Closer since its posthumous arrival. More than Drake or Holiday, Closer has been closely inspected as a suicide note. Furthermore, Ian Curtis has been idolized as genius since then. I have not followed either path with this album since I first heard it.
To declare an album as classic, it not only offers a timelessness to the music, but also a hallmark of the times. Be it punk, the summer of love, or other moments in a society that are so intertwined with music, the context of the time plays a big importance into how we digest an album. At this time, I can include Unknown Pleasures as well, because I had two isolations from context when endearing myself to Joy Division: (1) I lived in Puerto Rico where punk/post-punk was limited to sensational news and (2) Joy Division was not well-known at the time. At the time that I first listened to Closer, my roommate offered the bit of news that the singer had committed suicide. Such information had no impact to that first listen, which was, otherworldly.
So, for 27 years, I have formed my own context for the music from Joy Division, and in some ways, to the early music from New Order as well. This may seem weird, but the remaining members helped this by not flogging Joy Division's music through 1984, and then again, for many years after, it was just to play a couple of songs, mostly as dedications. As unfortunate as Ian's life was, there was no letting him into my endearing of the music. That is, let his personal life filter into the context that I created. A very impressionable quote from Ian is to not publish the lyrics because they needed to be absorbed in the context of the music, and I heeded to this advice.
I suspected that the movie would be like a force that would uproot this carefully constructed context. The fact that I can talk to someone about how the lyrics are a reflection of the life he led, or to read two books -- Touching From A Distance and Torn Apart -- has been able to change how I listen to the music from them. This is because, as the music plays, I create my own world. The rest of the information does not penetrate that most enjoyable moment.
However, I did not expect the movie to be so dependent on the lyrics. That was a shock beyond my expectation. The movie and the lyrics, out of context from the music at times, are intertwined. The movie, unlike listening to the music, makes a much stronger statement than reading a book or talking to someone. The power of the visual art is too strong, and hence the interest in photography on my part. Perhaps a developed acuity to the visual arts in the last few years made the impact of the movie much worse. This is my only complaint about the approach to the movie, but to remove the lyrics as an important tool of the narrative is also horribly flawed. After all, perhaps things would have been a bit more differently if people heeded Annik Honoré's warning about the lyrics in the album.
The other components of the movie are simply wonderful. There are very compelling scenes through out the movie, and none as surprising as when «Love Will Tear Us Apart» was finally used. I am tired of the song, and rarely listen to it, however, I was floored when it was used, and how the particular scene was filmed. Through the movie, the music is used very well, even if to highlight the lyrics as they relate to the story, but I think it was most compelling when it was not there. The scenes of isolation between a couple of characters in the movie and the background silence are perhaps the most creative part of the movie. As an example, is the composition and effect it has on the scene of Deborah's confrontation with Ian on the left side of a well-lit curtain on a window. Fantastic.
There are some scenes of legends, as the contract being signed in blood, or Peter Hook's answers to Annik's questions, or his running joke about the name Buzzcocks. These, perhaps used as counterpoints to the somber story, do not play out well in the movie, and come out as awkward. That they do not work is the weakest aspect of the film, and that is too bad, as the jokes (practical or otherwise) are noted over and over as being an integral part of the band and Ian's personality. Yet, they have no weight in the movie.
I also looked for some presentation to increase the weight of the movie. This is difficult to pull off, as it can be tricky. However, it was not noticeable if the "movie grain" or "print tonality" changed as the movie progressed. The beginning felt very well-lit, but that could be due to the number of outside scenes.
An alternate name for the movie could have been Isolation. Perhaps cheesy because it is the title of a song, and that is what bootleggers do, but it also better describes the interpretation into a movie. Anton's talent shines in the isolated scenes, and Ian lost control as he isolated himself. That is one of the problems of depression: a tendency towards isolation and a loss of control can easily happen.
It was unavoidable to listen to Unknown Pleasures and Closer after the movie, mostly on the flight to California. The context built over the last 27 years is still there, but now it also coexists with that of the movie. That the review of a movie forces me to write so much about the music is also to be seen as a success of what was done, and how it was done.
This particular day had another photography meets music event to come that night...