Cannes joy for rock film of substance

A low-budget British film about Joy Division star Ian Curtis has won a top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Control, which was made for just £3 million (4.4m) and stars an unknown former retail warehouse worker in his first lead role, has been named Best European Film at the festival.

The title — awarded by the Europa Cinemas Label, a network of film distributors — will boost Control’s prospects by funding its release across European cinemas.

The jury said Sam Riley, 27, who plays Curtis, was “excellent” in the role, along with the rest of the cast.

Control follows Curtis’s tragic last years before he killed himself at the age of 23 on May 18, 1980 on the eve of the band’s first US tour.

Dutch director Anton Corbijn poured his own cash into the film, which also stars Samantha Morton as Curtis’s wife, to ensure its survival.

Corbijn plucked Riley from obscurity to play the iconic singer, who suffered from epileptic fits and could not handle the band’s success as his personal life unravelled following an affair.

Riley was folding shirts in a Leeds warehouse when he auditioned.

New Order, the band formed by the surviving members of Joy Division, and Curtis’s widow, collaborated on the project.

It was shot in black and white, and the soundtrack includes New Order, David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, the Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop.

Control was shown for the first time last week when it opened the Directors’ Fortnight section of films in Cannes to rave reviews.

It is the first feature film for Riley and the director, better known as a photographer.

Riley, who enjoyed bit parts in the film 24 Hour Party People and TV’s Law and Order before landing the role of Curtis, sings in the role.

His former band, rock group 10,000 Things, spent four years with the Polydor record label but, he admits, they never “troubled the charts”.

Control received £250,000 (369,000) of European Union cash from a group based in the East Midlands.

As a result, the movie — one of the few British titles being shown at the Film Festival — had to be shot in Nottingham instead of Macclesfield, where the story is set.

The Europa Cinemas Label jury said We feel that this is a film that will strike a real chord with audiences around Europe, and not just with music lovers.”

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