British History Challenge 57-58 | Love will Tear us Apart

Our legs are tired, our hearts are broken and we’re all oh so weary, but we’ve got to keep going… We’re almost there. Welcome to the 1970’s.

#57: Sid And Nancy

General Opinion: Mediocrity playing to mythology

Review: The story of Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols is in itself an interesting one. Here you have a band, put together by Malcolm Maclaren for the purposes of being awful. It’s a well known fact that Vicious couldn’t even play the bass when he joined up. However, this film eschews all the interesting parts and charges headlong into the mythology by romanticising the turbulent relationship between Vicious and annoying American groupie/ insane junkie Nancy Spungen. And herein lies the problems. The Sex Pistols and everything before Sid met Nancy is either none existent or sidelined in favour of pursuing a plot point that goes nowhere, does nothing and fizzles out long before it even starts.

It’s not the main actors that are terrible (although the less said about the limited support cast the better) A young Gary Oldman does an ok job at portraying what amounts to a thinly veiled caricature of the myth that hides the man. He successfully manages to present a picture of a violent, self destructive idiot rather than the ‘naive,’ easily led kid who fell helplessly for an American Junkie… Like I said, Oldman doesn’t too badly given the script, but he’s playing the myth.

And what about the American junkie? She is nowhere near irritating enough. She’s annoying and unlikable, as she should be, but nowhere near enough. This was a woman who nearly everyone hated and yet they haven’t gone far enough to make me absolutely loathe her.Then again… Surely you don’t want the audience repulsed by a main character? As for everybody else, the portrayal is laughable and not worth even mentioning here.

As for the events in the film itself… The framework is there but again its essentially ignored in favour of pandering to this stupid mythology. It essentially glamorises what was a series of very dark events- Two young people who were supposedly in love… (Sid might have been head over heels but Nancy? Nah… I reckon she was one of them ‘overly attached girlfriend’ types and would have got bored of him sooner or later.) Two young people who were supposedly in love and spiralled into depravity. It’s not done with sympathy, it essentially makes a mockery of everything.

And the way they portray Punk Rock itself? Again, it plays to the myth. The thing about punk is that it was never as bad as the elders of the time made it out to be. (Note: The same thing happened with early Rock N Roll, go figure.) The film treats every last punk as some sort of out of control anti-christ figure with nothing on their mind but destruction and anarchy. There’s even a bunch of school kids who smash a car in with hockey sticks, like everything in 1977 was out of control. I’ve written about this time period and let me tell you, this film gets an awful lot wrong, which is unforgiveable since it was only made in the mid eighties (pushing at the front door of the boundary between ‘Social commentary’ and ‘History Film.’)

There is no plot. The film goes nowhere. The characters don’t develop, the script is diabolical. It swims in a seething pool of mediocrity and mythology.

Rating: 2/10

#58: Control

General Opinion: Not bad, but a little weak in places.

Review: If you’re going to do a biopic of a musician from the not too distant past its only decent to try and go some of the way to getting it right. This film is exactly the opposite of the one above, a brilliant, thought provoking and well made film about the life of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, his struggles with epilepsy, depression and his eventual suicide at the age of twenty three.

The whole thing, although not strictly speaking accurate, is treated with the dignity and respect it quite rightly deserves. It follows Curtis from his school days and his marriage through to the formation of Joy Division and his affair with Belgian musician Annik Honoré. It does this quite well.

The film is what I suppose you might call pacey. It’s very entertaining and its helped along by some good and VERY convincing singing scenes (Ok… Curtis’s singing is slightly higher (yeah… I’ve got Joy Division playing atm so I know what I’m writing about…) but its still very convincing.) The acting is all good as well. You can tell that the makers have really tried hard to try and fit the actors to their role. Sam Riley makes for an excellent Curtis. He’s quiet, unassuming and instantly likeable. Right from the off he is Ian Curtis as O would imagine him to be. And it’s not just with Riley they’ve done a good job. The rest of the band are convincing, as is their manager Rob Gretton and Curtis’s wife Deborah. The only one who doesn’t seem convincing is Tony Wilson… He looks and acts nothing like the real one. But just the one character in an entire film isn’t at all bad.

It’s also got some spectacular cinematography. It’s done in black and white but it’s done to spectacular effect by utilising the shadows and the dark corners kind of like in a film noir. One particular scene near the end where Ian steps out of the shadows of a kitchen as Deborah enters is particularly memorable and well done, as is the ending.

The issue I have here is that the film seems to lag a bit towards the middle. It’s entertaining enough but the middle is just… I don’t know. It’s a little staid and lacklustre if you know what I mean. The beginning and towards the end are alright. It’s just the middle that lets it down.

Rating: 7/10


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