The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

THE last of last year’s best films ap­pear on DVD this month and in April. March has been shap­ing as a boun­ti­ful month for qual­ity Hol­ly­wood prod­uct.

The mer­its of Michael Clay­ton , Into the Wild , Res­cue Dawn and East­ern Prom­ises are ob­vi­ous enough.

If their re­spec­tive direc­tors Tony Gil­roy ( and his lead, Ge­orge Clooney), Sean Penn, Werner Her­zog and David Cro­nen­berg don’t ex­cite any in­ter­est, well, Aus­tralian comic Col El­liott has a new DVD out on Mon­day.

The four films all have their as­sets. Three of them earned sev­eral Academy Award nom­i­na­tions and Tilda Swin­ton sur­prised many by win­ning the best sup­port­ing ac­tress Os­car for her role in Michael Clay­ton .

An­other of last year’s qual­ity films, Con­trol , was ig­nored by the academy but picked up plenty of other awards fol­low­ing its pre­miere at Cannes in May.

Mu­sic biopics have lately be­come some­thing of a Hol­ly­wood cliche. You know the drill: the mu­si­cian comes from a dys­func­tional fam­ily, beats the odds to find suc­cess, gets mar­ried, over- in­dulges and plum­mets be­fore re­newal or tragic death. We’ve seen it all be­fore and the genre was ripe for par­ody in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Con­trol is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, though, and a far more beau­ti­ful film than might have been ex­pected, given the sub­ject mat­ter, the short life of Joy Di­vi­sion’s lead singer Ian Cur­tis. Al­though Con­trol is An­ton Cor­bijn’s de­but fea­ture, lo­cal dis­trib­u­tor Mad­man has seen fit to in­clude the new DVD in its Direc­tors Suite sub- la­bel. This may be a mar­ket­ing move, but it’s also a sign of the film’s qual­ity. Cor­bijn is a rock pho­tog­ra­pher and mu­sic video di­rec­tor who col­lab­o­rated with Joy Di­vi­sion, the Manch­ester band that be­came a sem­i­nal in­flu­ence in Bri­tish pop’s move from late 1970s punk to ’ 80s elec­tronic mu­sic and dance ( post- Cur­tis, the band be­came New Or­der).

The Dutch pho­tog­ra­pher moved on and made his mark cap­tur­ing U2, Me­tal­lica and Depeche Mode on film.

His tran­si­tion to fea­ture films should have scared us, though, be­cause mu­sic video direc­tors gen­er­ally tend to pro­duce flashy but vac­u­ous films.

The names Michael Bay, Mark Pelling­ton and An­toine Fuqua come to mind, al­though, to be fair, they have had their share of com­pe­tent works: Bay’s Trans­form­ers and Fuqua’s Train­ing Day, for in­stance. And I can’t wait to see Pelling­ton’s work on the con­cert film U2 3D, which is due for a cin­ema re­lease here soon. Michel Gondry ( Eter­nal Sun­shine of the Spot­less Mind ) and Spike Jonze ( Be­ing John Malkovich ) might be con­sid­ered the ex­cep­tions that prove the rule, if only their films weren’t so whim­si­cal and undis­ci­plined.

The one word that should scare you off any film di­rected by a mu­sic video au­teur is Pitof. Yes, just Pitof. That’s the name of the French­man who di­rected Cat­woman.

Which is to say, Cor­bijn has dis­tin­guished him­self from many mu­sic video mak­ers with his ac­com­plished first film. Cor­bijn’s work with Joy Di­vi­sion ap­pears to have given him in­sight and a soft touch, yet his biopic doesn’t veer into ha­giog­ra­phy. The di­rec­tor clearly has a keen eye and his black- and­white cin­e­matog­ra­phy is won­der­fully lush, even in its dank English set­ting ( al­though the film was shot in colour and trans­ferred to black and white).

While mu­sic direc­tors tend to get the look right in their fea­ture films, nar­ra­tive ( based in this case on a mem­oir by Cur­tis’s wife, Deb­o­rah) and cast­ing tend to be some­thing else al­to­gether. Cor­bijn ex­celled in both.

Con­trol may not have a Clooney or Cro­nen­berg on its DVD sleeve to grab your at­ten­tion, but it’s cer­tainly worth watch­ing.

* * * DISC WATCH: The As­sas­si­na­tion of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford ( Warner Bros, MA15+, $ 29.99) Aussie di­rec­tor Andrew Dominik’s first film since Chop­per ( yes, it has been that long) fea­tures Brad Pitt and a cracker of a per­for­mance from Casey Af­fleck. But can you stay the dis­tance?

bodeym@ theaus­tralian. com. au

De­but fea­ture: Con­trol di­rec­tor An­ton Cor­bijn

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