Although I somehow managed to miss it when it showed at the Toronto International Film Festival, I was granted a second chance to see Grant Gee‘s Joy Division documentary.  It seems the good people at the Images Festival thought highly enough of it to bring it back for one night.

In spite of having to navigate through sketchy alleyways and construction zones to find the unmarked venue, the theatre was nearly packed.  The atmosphere was more akin to a cocktail party than a film showing, as patrons milled around sharing their best Joy Division memories.

The Images people are gearing up for the April launch of their 23rd annual festival.  I urge you to keep an eye on their website here: http://www.imagesfestival.com/

For those of you not familiar, the band Joy Division broke out of the late 1970’s Manchester punk scene.  While they never achieved the massive fame they so richly deserved, their bleak, haunting melodies laid the foundation for decades of popular music.  After only two albums, and on the verge of their first North American Tour, lead singer Ian Curtis was found dead by his own hand.

For the full history lesson check out: http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:gbfuxql5ldje

For those of you already initiated into the genius that is Joy Division, I hope my selected, annotated bibliography is of some use.

Further References

Corbijn, Anton. (2007). Control (Film). New York: The Weinstein Company.

  • A dramatized version of Curtis life, based on the book by his widow.  Considering the tragic opera that was Curtis’ life, this might not be an easy one to sit through.

Curtis, Deborah. (2007). Touching from a distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Faber and Faber.

  • Written by Ian Curtis’ widow, this book offers the only truly intimate portrayal of the enigmatic singer’s personal life. Includes a full set of Curtis’ lyrics.

Gee, Grant. (2007).  Joy Division (Film). New York: The Weinstein Company.

  • A gritty and touching documentary, this film features interviews with nearly every important living (and some dead) figure in the band’s history.  While it may not serve as a good entry point, it’s an absolutely stunning piece of work for the aficionado.

Luck, Richard. (2009). The Madchester scene: the pocket essential. Pocket Essentials.

  • A quick guide to all things Manchester, the music scene which gave birth to Joy Division, New Order, the Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses and Acid House.

Roberston, Matthew. (2006). Factory Records: the complete graphic album. London: Chronicle Books.

  • A complete collection of every graphical item Factory Records ever produced.  Includes album covers, records sleeves, club flyers and gig posters.

Wilson, Tony. (2002). Twenty-four hour party people: what the sleeve notes never tell you. Trans-Atlantic.

  • Chronicles the somewhat true/somewhat mythological tale of Factory Records, Joy Division and New Order.  See the eponymous film starring the sublime Steve Coogan.

Selected Discography

In their brief history together, Joy Division released but two proper studio albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer.  This hasn’t stopped the market from being flooded with compilations, concert bootlegs and box sets.  In addition to their “real” albums, I’ve included several of the finer collections.

Closer. By Joy Division (Musical Group). London: Qwest, 1980.

  • Though no one realized it at the time, Closer may well have served as Ian Curtis’ lyrical suicide note.

Still. By Joy Division (Musical Group). London: Qwest, 1981.

  • Primarily a collection of leftovers, odds and ends, Still is a worthwhile pickup for the completist.

Substance. By Joy Division (Musical Group). London: Qwest, 1988.

  • Easily the best Joy Division compilation on the market.  Chock full of alternate versions, B-sides and rarities.

Unknown Pleasures. By Joy Division (Musical Group). London: Qwest, 1979.

  • This album proved that not only could punk rock be touching, intelligent and poignant, it also sounded pretty damn good when you slowed the beat down just a little.

Warsaw. By Warsaw/Joy Division (Musical Group). London: Movieplay Gold, 1994.

  • This was originally intended to serve as the band’s debut album (before a legal scuffle forced them to abandon the name Warsaw).  It’s from a time before the band settled on their distinctive sound, but bristles with the raw energy, speed and anger that punk rock is best know for.

*Cover art image created by Peter Saville

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