ON THE SIDE

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

The spot­light at Cannes is on the movies in com­pe­ti­tion for the Palme d’Or, but the fes­ti­val side­bar pro­grammes al­ways yield dis­cov­er­ies.

Con­trol, which opened the Direc­tors Fort­night strand this year, marks an as­sured fea­ture film de­but for Dutch pho­tog­ra­pher An­ton Cor­bijn, who has shot album sleeves for U2 and di­rected mu­sic videos for them, Depeche Mode and Joy Di­vi­sion.

Ian Cur­tis, the gifted singer-song­writer with Joy Di­vi­sion, is the sub­ject of Con­trol, which be­gins near Manch­ester, in 1973, when it was grim up north and Cur­tis was an in­tro­spec­tive, Wordsworth-quot­ing 17-year-old David Bowie devo­tee. Two years later, Cur­tis mar­ries his best friend’s girl­friend, Deb­o­rah Woodruff (on whose mem­oir the screen­play is based). He joins lo­cal band War­saw, changes their name to Joy Di­vi­sion, and Manch­ester im­pre­sario Tony Wil­son signs them to Fac­tory Records.

The movie fol­lows the rise of the band and the com­pli­ca­tions in Cur­tis’s life: fa­ther­hood and its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties; adul­tery with a Bel­gian fan; his first epilepsy at­tacks; and the pres­sures and de­mands of fame. It ends on the eve of the band’s first US tour in May 1980, when Cur­tis killed him­self at the age of 23.

Con­trol, which is in black and white, fol­lows the tra­di­tional arc of the doomed rock star sce­nario. While it will hardly prove il­lu­mi­nat­ing to Cur­tis’s ad­mir­ers, it is fu­elled with an ev­i­dent em­pa­thy and af­fec­tion for him and his mu­sic.

Cor­bijn found the per­fect ac­tor in Sam Ri­ley, who be­lies his rel­a­tive in­ex­pe­ri­ence by bring­ing Cur­tis vividly to life, and he’s elec­tri­fy­ing when he pas­sion­ately per­forms on stage. Sa­man­tha Mor­ton is af­fect­ing and re­fresh­ingly un­man­nered as the trou­bled Deb­o­rah.

Be­gin­ning a decade ear­lier, in 1962, and con­tin­u­ing through the 1970s, My Brother Is an Only Child fol­lows the tur­bu­lent ex­pe­ri­ences of a dis­af­fected youth in Latina, south of Rome. Born to Catholic par­ents, Ac­cio en­ters the sem­i­nary as a pre­co­cious boy but is over­taken with post­pubescent lust. In his late teens he en­thu­si­as­ti­cally joins the fas­cists, to the hor­ror of his older brother, an avowed com­mu­nist.

The screen­play is by San­dro Petraglia and Ste­fano Rulli who, hav­ing scripted The Best of Youth and Ro­manzo Crim­i­nale, are clearly fas­ci­nated by the po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural move­ments of the pe­riod. This film, nim­bly di­rected by Daniele Luchetti, is dra­mat­i­cally in­volv­ing and en­ter­tain­ingly comic.

And then there is Zoo, which ar­rived in Cannes trail­ing po­ten­tial no­to­ri­ety be­cause of its theme: men who have sex with horses. Read­ers of a sen­si­tive dis­po­si­tion may pre­fer to turn the page now. As it tran­spires, the movie doesn’t sen­sa­tion­alise its sub­ject, treat­ing it mat­ter-of-factly in a muted, stylised man­ner.

It’s not the first film to re­flect on a sex­ual at­tach­ment be­tween men and horses, which was fuzzily treated in Equus (1977). Zoo takes its ti­tle from the ab­bre­vi­a­tion of zoophile, as th­ese self-de­clared horse lovers de­scribe them­selves. It de­scribes how they made con­tact over the in­ter­net and gath­ered at a Seat­tle farm, where they filmed their sex­ual ac­tiv­i­ties with the an­i­mals.

That came to light in 2005, when Ken­neth Pinyan, a 45-year-old di­vorced en­gi­neer, bled to death af­ter a stal­lion per­fo­rated his colon. Bes­tial­ity is not il­le­gal in the state of Wash­ing­ton, so no charges were filed.

When none of Pinyan’s fel­low zoophiles would ap­pear on cam­era, di­rec­tor Robin­son Devor recorded au­dio in­ter­views with them, which are played un­der footage of ac­tors in what is a drama­tised doc­u­men­tary.

It is dif­fi­cult and trou­bling as the men talk about “be­ing zoo”, as the Pinyan char­ac­ter spends the week­end with his ex-wife and their young son be­fore he meets his death, and when an­i­mal res­cue work­ers ques­tion the zoophile as­ser­tions that the stal­lion had to be a will­ing sex­ual part­ner.

I sup­pose a ride is out of the ques­tion? A scene from the con­tro­ver­sial Zoo

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