Review: Joy Division Miriam Collection DVD

A great new DVD on your store's shelves today finally brings closure one of the great rock-n-roll tragedies. Joy Division, The Miriam Collection beautifully and efficiently tells the tale of the seminal Manchester band, blending brilliant, seldom-seen archival and bootleg footage of the band with late frontman Ian Curtis with current interviews and recollections by surviving alums (and New Order principals) Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris, as well as a cadre of managers, artists, and even Yoko-style interloper Annik Honoré. Director Grant Gee (Blur, Radiohead) takes the formerly page-bound tale and brings it to life in visually stunning and fast-paced fashion, splicing in stock footage of a gray England and the band's old haunts that fills in the holes of the viewers imagination. Unless you were there at the time, its hard to imagine one's vision of the story could be more accurate than this one. More importantly, Gee captures Curtis' singular magic while simultaneously debunking his mythology. One of the drawbacks of having an a story like this remain untold (at least in an "official" capacity) for over 30 years is that the chronicle has taken on gothic, almost urban legend proportions, leaving only the band's two dark albums to somehow convey the story. In reality, Curtis was a young man who struggled with depression (to say nothing of epilepsy, which fueled it) in an era where depression was not recognized as a serious condition. In the era of Prozac, this easy to forget. His band members lament not taking his depression seriously, but given the era and their young age, it's almost impossible to place any blame with them for his eventual suicide. Parallel to the band's story, Gee expertly reminds us of the magic of the music, keeping it all around the viewer throughout, from the legendary debut Unknown Pleasures (which apparently everybody in the world likes more than the band does), to the the bands essential hit "Love Will Tear Us Apart" from it's posthumous, more refined Closer album. Bassist Peter Hook steals the show in the interview footage. Aside from explaining how his signature high bass sound was formed, Hook is naturally hilarious, even if it is clear at times he hides some pain with laughter. Watching New Order (equally seminal in their own right) rock "Shadowplay" in 2007 at the film's close, merged with classic Curtis footage, truly seems to bring the bittersweet story full circle, particularly since the band chose to ignore the Joy Division catalog for nearly two decades. A sad story, to be sure, but now that it's told, it seems like sweet relief for all concerned.

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