Thursday, October 12, 2006

Cinema corner – Marie Antoinette
(and how for GenY, life is a rehearsal)

From its cinema preview, Sofia Coppola’s new movie looks bizarre – in a bad, GenY-wank sort of way, not a good GenX, um, wank sort of way. (Coppola was born in 1971, but her riding on her daddy’s coat-tails has shaved years off her, careerwise. Meaning that she could even be an honorary boomer?)

Anyway, the bone I’m picking with the film is its inclusion of New Order’s cover version* of the Joy Division song “Ceremony” in Marie Antoinette’s feature soundtrack, and most especially preview soundtrack. (I haven’t seen the film, which is yet to open in Australia.)

“Ceremony” is a gut-wrenching song of rare strength, quite apart from the circumstances of its first and last public performance/recording by Joy Division in 1980, and one year later, the well-meaning tribute cover by New Order. Whatever the song’s context in the actual film of Marie Antoinette, its place in the film’s preview is about as suitable as including graphic September 11 footage in a Bambi movie.

Plus there’s the cover-version thing. Almost three decades on, it seems to me that the most suitable ongoing tribute New Order could make to Ian Curtis would be to stop licensing their “Ceremony”. It’s not that their version is inferior or defective, it’s just that if ever a song was able to speak from the grave, “Ceremony” is it.

More broadly, can we please have a GenY moratorium/blanket-ban on anything to do with Joy Division, at least until they turn 30, say. John Heard’s "Love Will Tear Us Apart" T-shirt was another violation of the dead by the living crass.

* Cover version? "Ceremony" was written, and first performed by the four members of Joy Division, three of whom (sans Ian Curtis) of course went on to form New Order. Wikipedia’s take is that Joy Division’s live performance of the song at Birmingham University on 2 May 1980, as recorded on the album “Still”, ought best be regarded as never having been born:

“Still” is a point of contention among some of the group's fans, because of the undeniably poor quality recording of the Birmingham University performance. This is not aided by the fact that the engineer that night mixed the vocals far too low for the first half of "Ceremony", making Ian Curtis inaudible and thus ruining one of only two recordings the band made of the song. Recent CD reissues of the album on London Records have replaced this live version with the other known recording, a 1980 demo that originally surfaced on the “Heart and Soul” box set.

As for “the [general] undeniably poor quality recording of the Birmingham University performance”, bollocks. Considering its live-ness, it’s overall fine. Admittedly, Ian Curtis’s early lyrics on "Ceremony" are basically inaudible, but sheesh, to call the whole song “ruined” sounds like a petulant GenYer wanting his/her Oompah-loompah now. And the so-called “demo” alternative version of "Ceremony" by Joy Division was a rehearsal, FFS!

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